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Ivory sellers in Europe are using the same code words in different languages to covertly advertise items for sale, potentially making it easier for law enforcement agencies to uncover such activities by reducing the number of phrases they have to track.
Sara Alfino and Dr. David Roberts from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology within the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent examined 19 different code words and phrases that have been identified as representing ivory products on sale across four of eBay's European websites: the UK, Italy, France and Spain.
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They found that despite eBay's ban on ivory sales there were 183 ivory items on sale by 113 sellers during their research window between 18 January and 5 February 2017.
Not only did these sales violate eBay's trading conditions but some broke regulations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and EU regulations regarding the sale of 'unworked' ivory.
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Despite the use of codes to hide sales and the problems this could pose law enforcement agencies working in different languages, the researchers found that the majority of items on offer—around 80% - were grouped around six code words across the four eBay sites monitored.
This suggests the sales of ivory items online between traders is standardising around set code words, even when using different languages, as globalisation and market forces affect their business like any other.
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