Israel's Nature Authority Considers Calling for Ban on Ivory Sales

Israel Nature and Parks Authority wants auction houses to stop selling ivory items if they don’t have appropriate documentation.

Contraband ivory being displayed in Togo.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is demanding that auction houses in Israel stop offering ivory items for sale if they don’t have documentation proving that the items originated before global restrictions on ivory commerce applied. The authority is considering proposing legislation that would completely ban the sale of such items.

Over the past few weeks, Tiroche Auction House in Herzliya offered dozens of ivory items, including figurines. After members of the public contacted the INPA, the authority demanded that Tiroche refrain from publicizing the ivory items until it delivered documentation that they were permitted for sale.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (known as CITES), commerce in ivory was banned in 1990.

Older items are still being bought and sold, and a number of auction houses in Israel offer ivory objects.

The purpose of the ban is to stop the hunting of elephants for their tusks, which has placed the African elephant in grave danger of extinction. The number of Africa’s Savanna elephants dropped by about 30 percent between 2007 and 2014 (to 352,000) due to poaching, according to a recent study.

Elephant populations in Tanzania and Mozambique were among the hardest hit.

INPA Deputy Director General Roni Malka confirmed that the authority had asked Tiroche to produce the necessary documentation and was examining the possibility of promoting a total ban on the sale of ivory items in Israel.

According to Tiroche Director Dov Hazan, “Out of a desire to act according to the law, Tiroche decided to offer ivory items for sale subject to Israel Nature and Parks Authority approval. The items will be offered for auction to determine their price. After the sale, Tiroche will work to obtain permits from the INPA. If the permits are obtained, the items will be delivered to the purchasers. If the permits are not obtained, the sale will be voided.”

The annual conference of countries that are signatories to CITES took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, this week. Ahead of the conference, a number of African countries submitted proposals for a total ban on the sale of ivory. However, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa favor the sale of their ivory stockpiles, saying the money can be funneled back into conservation.

Poaching syndicates were able to move large shipments of African elephant ivory last year, despite global calls to dismantle trafficking networks that often collude with corrupt government officials, conservationists said at the conference yesterday.

The illegal ivory trade “has remained fairly constant at unacceptably high levels” since 2010, and a “continuing upward trend” in the seizure of shipments of more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) in 2015 indicates the key role of organized crime in poaching, according to a document released by conference organizers.