Bri­tain pro­poses ivory sales ban in ef­fort to save ele­phants

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Jane Onyanga-Omara

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.

NARONG SANGNAK, EPA-EFE

A Thai cus­toms of­fi­cer checks con­fis­cated ele­phant tusks smug­gled from Congo and re­port­edly des­tined for Laos.

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