UK government to ban ivory sales

The environment secretary says the ban will be one of the toughest in the world. 

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The UK government plans to implement a new ivory trade ban

The UK government plans to implement a new ivory trade ban © Alison Langevad / Getty

 

Michael Gove has announced a ban on the sale of ivory of any age, with limited exceptions, to combat elephant poaching.

“[The new ban will] reaffirm the UK's global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past,” says Gove.

The previous ban only applied to ivory produced after 1947, whereas the new ban applies to all ivory products, with only a few exceptions such as musical instruments made before 1975 and comprised of less than 20 per cent ivory, and rare or important items which will be assessed by specialist institutions.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that it is tougher than the laws in the US and in China.

The ban, which does not yet have an implementation date, comes after more than 60,000 people supported a complete ban in a 2017 consultation.

There have been mixed responses to the announcement from conservationists.

Professor Keith Somerville, a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, questions whether the ban would work.

“Will it have any effect?,” he asks. “The 28 year ban on any legal trade in ivory has failed to stop poaching, which groups like TRAFFIC believe is still running at about 20,000 elephants a year.”

“China has strong and continuing demand and the ban on sales and carving in China has not stopped the illegal import of raw or worked ivory. Countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam now act as conduits for the illegal trade and there is evidence that Chinese carvers are moving to these countries to evade the temporary Chinese ban.”

In comparison, WWF welcomes the announcement.

“Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets,” says Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF. “This ban makes the UK a global leader in tackling this bloody trade and it’s something WWF has been fighting hard for.”

“But if we want to stop the poaching of this majestic animal, we need global action. We hope the UK will continue to press countries where the biggest ivory markets are, most of which are in Asia, to shut down their trade too.”

 

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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