Even now, concerned Internet shoppers still allege ivory is being sold on eBay. One called attention to a carving of a rural Asian village scene selling for $1,000 that is labeled as "Fine Chinese Ox Bone." The item is advertised by a seller in Los Angeles with the note, "Ships to: Worldwide."
Hiel said it can be tough, based on photos alone, to determine whether such products are really elephant tusks. You can always make an educated guess based on where the object is being sold and how much it goes for. But "unless you buy it and examine it, it's hard to tell for sure what's legal and what's not."
"Our argument is that the onus should be on the seller to prove the legality of what they're selling," Hiel said. "Because law enforcement can't go around ordering stuff of eBay just to test the legality of it."
Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that when elephant poaching last reached crisis levels several decades ago, web-based trafficking was not something anybody had to consider.
Now, "Internet-based crime is an important aspect of control," he said. "It makes it much more difficult, but we have to deal with it."
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