Singapore has bucked the trend where ivory sales are concerned with far fewer shops offering ivory for sale compared to a decade ago, a new survey by Traffic and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore has found.
A survey found the proportion of retail outlets openly selling ivory products decreased from 55 per cent in 2002 to 19 per cent in 2012. The variety of ivory products available also dropped significantly.
Of 100 retail outlets surveyed in Singapore, 19 shops had a total of 365 ivory items for sale. These items were found in stores selling antiques, handicraft, jewellery, and souvenirs, with the majority of items offered as jewellery and ornaments. Vendors reported that they were selling old stocks of worked ivory adding that these had been imported into the country 20 to 30 years ago, largely from China.
Domestic trade of elephant ivory is permitted in Singapore if traders can prove the specimen is pre-Convention or was acquired before 1990 when elephants became listed as protected species under the country's Endangered Species Act. Some vendors also reported that ivory was no longer popular in Singapore and that the stocks were old and difficult to sell.
The decrease has been attributed to changing consumer preference, possibly in conjunction with an ivory trade ban imposed under Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Traffic researchers found the sale of ivory products in Singapore was discrete, with larger supplies kept out of public view until interest in ivory was expressed, suggesting awareness of the stigma associated with ivory following numerous anti-ivory campaigns.
Despite the apparent decrease of claimed legal ivory on sale in the country, Singapore remains a significant transit point for high volume consignments of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia, or within Asia.