Press Release — Seattle, WA, July 22, 2013
Following a petition launched by the Snow Leopard Trust and signed by more than 33,000 people, the trend-setting online marketplace Etsy.com steps up for wildlife and explicitly bans listings containing parts of endangered animals from their site.
The Snow Leopard Trust is happy that the trend-setting marketplace for handmade and vintage goods Etsy.com has adopted new policies designed to stop the trade in products made with parts of endangered animals in their marketplace. These new policies, announced today on the Etsy News Blog, meet the demands of more than 33,000 wildlife supporters who had signed an online petition launched by the Snow Leopard Trust. “We’re very glad that Etsy is stepping up for wildlife”, says Brad Rutherford, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director. “It’s great to see the company live up to their billing as a mindful and humane business.”
Illegal Trade at an All-Time High
According to a report published in 2011 by Washington-based lobby group Global Financial Integrity, illegal wildlife trade has reached an all-time high of up to $10 billion total annual revenue; threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. For endangered species to survive, this trade has to be stopped.
As they are vast and difficult to monitor, online marketplaces have long been abused as venues for endangered animal products to be sold. Conservation activists have successfully convinced leading platforms like eBay and Amazon to protect themselves and their communities from this illicit trade by explicitly banning any product made with parts of endangered animals – including “vintage items” – from their sites.
When the Snow Leopard Trust was alerted this spring by Sibylle Noras, a snow leopard conservation activist based in Australia, that a seller on Etsy.com had listed a vintage coat with a “real snow leopard fur collar”, the Seattle-based organization reached out to Etsy headquarters and asked them to remove the listing and review their wildlife policies – which didn’t allow “illegal animal products”, but weren’t specific as to what that entailed; causing evident confusion among sellers and prospective customers.
The extent of the problem became evident when further research led to the discovery of hundreds of listings for products made with parts of endangered animals, including leopard and ocelot fur and rhino horn, on Etsy.com.
Vintage is Not Necessarily Legal
Most of the items in question were listed on Etsy.com as “vintage” or “pre-ban”, indicating that they were made or acquired before the Endangered Species Act of 1971 made it illegal to trade in them. However, it’s a misconception that such “vintage” items made with parts of endangered animals can be legally sold without restriction. In reality, the sale or offer for sale of any such product across state or international borders is illegal in the United States.
“Evidently, many Etsy shop owners were unaware of the legal situation and had listed items such as vintage leopard fur coats, ocelot purses or rhino horn goblets for sale; believing to be in compliance with both the law and Etsy’s policies – while violating both”, Brad Rutherford says. “Clearly, Etsy’s existing policies were not working as intended.”
Beyond the legal issues, the sale of so-called “vintage” products made with parts of endangered animals puts today’s snow leopards, rhinos and elephants at risk as well. “It’s not unusual for newly poached products to be labeled as vintage to avoid detection”, Rutherford explains. “In addition, when leopard fur coats or rhino horn bowls are listed as fashionable accessories on a hip website like Etsy, they help fuel the very demand for exotic or rare animal products that lies at the heart of poaching.”
Wildlife supporters from all over the world had raised concerns about endangered animal product listings on Etsy. The Snow Leopard Trust decided to amplify their voices and launch an online petition, asking the popular marketplace to follow the lead of companies such as eBay and Amazon and adopt policies that would explicitly ban any product made with parts of endangered animals; ending the apparent confusion among the Etsy shop owner community and closing a potential loophole for poachers. More than 33,000 people have signed the petition to date – and now, their voices have been heard.
“It’s very encouraging to see the Etsy community and the conservation community join forces for wildlife in this fashion”, Brad Rutherford says.