Europe ivory trade fuels slaughter

Hundreds of ivory items are illegally traded online in Europe each week, adding to the slaughter of African elephants, an Interpol report said Thursday.

A recent survey of Internet sites in nine European countries found that ivory items worth an estimated 1.5 million euros (two million United States dollars) had been sold in a two-week period, Interpol said in a report released at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species being held in Bangkok.

The illegal ivory trade has tripled worldwide over the past 15 years, trafficked primarily by "Asian-run, African-based" criminal networks, according to a United Nations Environmental Programme report also released at the conference.

While the illicit trade, blamed for the slaughter of an estimated 25,000 African elephants in 2011, is fuelled primarily by growing demand for trinkets and tusks in increasingly affluent Asia, Europe is also offering an online market for ivory.

"Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed each year for ivory, and it is essential that police and customs step up their fight against illegal online ivory sales both in Europe and around the world," said Tania McCrea-Steele, a senior prosecutions officer of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which supported the Interpol report.

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