Britain proposes ivory sales ban in effort to save elephants
LONDON The British government has proposed banning the sale of nearly all ivory in a bid to protect elephants from poaching.
The United Kingdom is the world’s biggest exporter of legal ivory, and the biggest exporter of legal ivory to Hong Kong and China — two of the largest markets — according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a London-based non-governmental organization.
Britain is currently allowed to sell ivory that was carved before 1947 or items carved before 1990 that have government certificates. The proposals cover ivory of all ages, the government said.
“The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation,” said Environment Minister Michael Gove.
African elephants have declined by 111,000 in the last decade due largely to poaching, the World Wildlife Fund says.
About 20,000 elephants are killed every year for their tusks, the British government says.
The EIA said that between 2010 and 2015, the U.K. exported 370% more legal ivory than the U.S. — the next highest exporter. It said British ivory exports to Hong Kong and China increased dramatically during that time, while exports to the U.S. dropped because the U.S. government introduced more restrictions.
The groups says the legal trade is used to cover for the illegal trade in ivory.
“This huge legal trade from the U.K. — and the illegal trade it masks — is wholly unacceptable for a country which has previously shown strong leadership on elephant conservation,” said EIA director Mary Rice.
Exceptions to the proposed ban include items containing only a small amount of ivory, musical instruments, and items of significant historic, artistic or cultural value.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of the WWF, said: “This illegal trade is a global problem requiring global solutions: to end it anywhere means ending it everywhere,” the Guardian reported.
A Thai customs officer checks confiscated elephant tusks smuggled from Congo and reportedly destined for Laos.