Cave Formation on Sale on EBay

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Postby NZcaver » Dec 13, 2007 1:17 pm

FYI - that seller, fubaroo1, just ended their listing and immediately relisted the same item after removing all mention of Indian Echo Caverns.

Seems to me like they know they're guilty as sin. :roll: Well spotted, Wendy.
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Postby wendy » Dec 13, 2007 1:25 pm

NZcaver wrote:FYI - that seller, fubaroo1, just ended their listing and immediately relisted the same item after removing all mention of Indian Echo Caverns.

Seems to me like they know they're guilty as sin. :roll: Well spotted, Wendy.


i reported the auction again
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Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 14, 2007 10:14 am

after also reporting that auction, i performed the following search:
(stalactite, stalagmite)

and received the following result.

right now there are 74 auctions that hit on either of those keywords, quite a few of them based in China and showing calcite formations marked as "awesome natural calcite stalactite formation!" or the like... example here.

i don't know how to tell whether or not these are cave-related items or not, but it's fairly worrisome.
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Postby wendy » Dec 14, 2007 10:44 am

xcathodex wrote:after also reporting that auction, i performed the following search:
(stalactite, stalagmite)

and received the following result.

right now there are 74 auctions that hit on either of those keywords, quite a few of them based in China and showing calcite formations marked as "awesome natural calcite stalactite formation!" or the like... example here.

i don't know how to tell whether or not these are cave-related items or not, but it's fairly worrisome.


The problem, i think, is if the formation is from outside the US then it is not protected by cave laws here, so I have not been reporting them. I always report the ones that say they are from a specific state or those that don't say either way.
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Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 14, 2007 10:48 am

wendy wrote:The problem, i think, is if the formation is from outside the US then it is not protected by cave laws here, so I have not been reporting them. I always report the ones that say they are from a specific state or those that don't say either way.


well, cave laws aside, Ebay specifically prohibits the sale of these items, regardless of seller location.
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Postby NZcaver » Dec 14, 2007 12:51 pm

xcathodex wrote:
wendy wrote:The problem, i think, is if the formation is from outside the US then it is not protected by cave laws here, so I have not been reporting them. I always report the ones that say they are from a specific state or those that don't say either way.


well, cave laws aside, Ebay specifically prohibits the sale of these items, regardless of seller location.

No, they don't.

Not to play Devil's Advocate here, but check the rules:

Cave formations
The sale of speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites from caves on any federal land is prohibited by federal law. See The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988. Many states also prohibit the sale and/or removal of speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites taken from caves. Please be sure your item complies with all applicable laws before listing it for sale.

An item lawfully removed from private land is permitted.

(Emphasis mine.)

I did the same search you did recently, plus I also added some incorrect spelling like "stalagtite" etc. By eBay's rules, that stuff from China, Mexico, etc is allowed. The various gem/mineral dealers seem to happily sell those just like any other rock, although one would hope the legit sellers (at least in the US) are smart enough to know they shouldn't be selling formations taken from Federal or other protected lands.

As for the ones who don't know that... well they just get reported, modify their listing to remove incriminating information, and re-list the item. :roll:

PS - fubaroo1's second listing has now been removed also. One small step for cave conservationists...
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Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 14, 2007 2:08 pm

ah, you are correct - i presumed that by being able to select "speleothems, etc" (i forget the exact wording) from their "prohibited items" list when reporting the auction meant a blanket ban on these items.

a closer look at their policies does indeed point out several loopholes. :doh:
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Postby Teresa » Dec 15, 2007 1:39 am

xcathodex wrote:ah, you are correct - i presumed that by being able to select "speleothems, etc" (i forget the exact wording) from their "prohibited items" list when reporting the auction meant a blanket ban on these items.

a closer look at their policies does indeed point out several loopholes. :doh:


Which is precisely the point I've been making for years. There are legitimate exceptions and circumstances where nearly anything on earth is permitted. The most grevious thing most people can do is kill another human being, and that is generally against the law, but even that has some exceptions where it can be legal, and is morally justifiable.

Wisdom lies in knowing the facts and circumstances behind speleothem collection and disposal and being able to figure out which cases are illegal and which are legal; which are justifiable, and which are just plain stupid.
While I commend the cavers' interest in this cause, we risk our own rational reputations if we insist on seeing all speleothem destruction as illegal, harmful or bad. The devil is in the details, and the details sometimes are gray, not black and white.

We need to take a page from BCI, and get people to WANT to keep speleothems intact, instead of just slapping at strangers when they do what we think is wrong.
:exactly:
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Postby NZcaver » Dec 15, 2007 11:36 am

Hmmmm.... what?

Nobody is talking about grevious acts like killing anyone here. We're just talking about reporting items to eBay that are on their prohibited list - specifically cave formations removed from Federal and other protected lands in the US.

Sure there may be morally justifiable circumstances for removing formations - like if a cave is about to be destroyed by road construction, or for certain exceptional scientific purposes. But that's not really the issue here. The issue is people trying to sell some specific speleothem items on eBay, when that act is illegal and against eBay policy. I'm sure most sellers who try this simply don't know any better, so a few good cavers periodically help to educate them by reporting such listings to eBay. Simple as that.
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Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 15, 2007 2:12 pm

look, i'm not out to convert anybody - my concern is that, if cave formations in China become a legitimate source of income for someone, how long before there are several Chinese sellers of cave formations, and then how long before the caves in China have been stripped bare?

in the famed Kentucky Cave Wars, roadside gift shops sold formations mined from caves, often stolen from competing show caves. it was profitable, so it was done. if it's profitable again, it will be done again.

i'm not going to go out of my way to play eBay Police, but we ARE talking about irreplaceable stuff taken from caves. if getting an auction cancelled stops the seller from heading out with a chisel to collect more calcite, how is that less impactful than teaching a new caver to tread lightly when traveling through a cave?

forgive me for thinking all speleothem destruction is harmful and bad... i could have sworn i was in the NSS conservation forum.
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Postby Teresa » Dec 15, 2007 3:21 pm

xcathodex, you are in the NSS conservation forum.

But after twenty years at this, (and being a member of the rock collecting fraternity since I was a kid) I'm not convinced all we are doing anything but making enemies, and inadvertently encouraging such behavior, driving it underground, like the ivory trade, trade in endangered species, and so forth where it looks to 'go away' but actually still flourishes.

NZ is right: on the list of 'bad things to do "rock-napping" is way down the list from killing someone. I used that analogy to make one point: people who are reporting to Ebay assume that the auction is in violation, instead of making a few discreet inquiries first. You don't hang people and ask questions later. Anyone can ask the sellers questions before they bid; why not give people the benefit of the doubt first and ask for a few details of the alleged speleothem before reporting? Rock collectors want to know exactly how and where specimens were found, then make the call based on that info? Most of the people who just have a single rock they want to get rid of are likely ignorant of cave resource laws, and unlikely to lie--after all, they want to make a sale. Contacting these people directly can be a way to educate them, and if they just don't get it, and they appear to be in violation after talking with them, then, well, bringing Ebay down on them is a good idea. (BTW-- most people in the non-caving world may relate to stalactite, stalagmite or flowstone-- they haven't a clue what a speleothem is.)

Rock dealers and collectors who have stores and attend shows should be reached in a different way. These people are used to being educated on rules and regulations and laws related to their hobby. Most pay lip service, at least, to collectors' ethics. These are the people bringing stal by the truckload and literal boatload to the big rock shows in Tucson. Like caving, rock collecting suffers from a dearth of young people-- it's the young people who we've got to change. And yes, things have changed at rock shows in the last 40 years. There are still stal in the offerings, and occasionally I've seen ones which were deliberately mislabeled. But the percentage of all stal has been greatly reduced. Instead of celebrating victories, why are we still being so negative? Most stal I see for sale are at flea markets. A few years ago, they were big at New Age fairs, but not so much anymore. In venues like this, it's better to talk to the show organizer and then, the dealer. Find out what's going on. Sometimes, it works, and you're not hurting people as much in the process.
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Postby NoRegrets » Dec 15, 2007 10:47 pm

This auction says this piece was "rescued". What does everyone think about this? Are caves demolished often?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Cave-Stalactite-Res ... QQihZ016QQ
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Postby NZcaver » Dec 16, 2007 9:50 am

Good question, NoRegrets. Caves do sometimes get sacrificed in the name of progress/construction. It happens.

From the wording of that latest listing, I don't see that it violates eBay policy - despite what some of us cavers may think about the issue.
Last edited by NZcaver on Dec 17, 2007 10:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby NoRegrets » Dec 17, 2007 2:52 am

I thought that most if not all caves were government protected in some way. Is this not the case? That seems like it would cause environmental groups to get very angry.
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Postby David Grimes » Dec 17, 2007 3:09 am

From what I have read about cave protection it only applies to what the government considers significant caves.

I am not sure what they define as a significant cave but it seems to differ from what is defined as a cave.
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