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WWF hoax causes public fury over ivory laws

A fake online shop by WWF has sparked a public outcry over the global ivory trade

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has fooled consumers in Singapore with a hoax ivory online shop in a move that revealed the shortcomings in local wildlife laws.

The shop, Ivory Lane, prompted a strong, public outcry and sparked fresh concerns over the trade. Currently, the global trade in elephant ivory claims one African elephant every 25 minutes, but remains legal for sale in Singapore under certain conditions.

To highlight the lack of clarity around wildlife laws, WWF commissioned a survey which found only eight per cent of people in Singapore understand the current legislation on ivory and 50 per cent think that the trade is already banned.

CEO of WWF-Singapore, Elaine Tan, said: “It is not easy to understand wildlife laws and what is legal and not, a reality that is often misused by illegal traders. The general uncertainty leads to illicit wildlife trade hiding in plain sight.

“We set up the online shop, Ivory Lane, on the same legal premise that the real ivory traders use to operate in Singapore.”

Ivory that has entered the market before 1990 is still permitted for sale in Singapore, but in some cases, recently poached ivory is being passed off as vintage.

WWF’s investigations found that over 40 Singapore shops are selling ivory products and numerous online listings on popular online platforms. In physical shops, traders said how easy it is to smuggle ivory across the border undetected.

The survey also revealed that 73 per cent of people support strengthened enforcement, a domestic ban or stricter penalties on ivory. Eighty per cent also think that wildlife crime should be punished by imprisonment.

In emphasising the need for deterrent penalties as strong enforcement, Tan added: “Amongst neighbouring countries, Singapore is one of the largest transhipment posts in the world but has comparably low maximum penalties for wildlife crime.”

There is a strong international momentum on wildlife protection, particularly on the issue of ivory. In addition to the US and UK, the governments of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have announced domestic bans of ivory in the past two years.

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