Every year more than 20,000 elephants are killed for their ivory. A ban on the trade in ivory will send a clear message around the world that the UK wants no part of this trade, and encourage further countries to close their ivory markets. As Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove said, the slaughter of elephants “shames our generation”.
The UK has a legal ivory trade in antiques, which are often sold overseas and is helping create a demand for ivory products. This legal trade has also provided a cover for the illegal trade. IFAW’s recent report highlights that the European Union is still a destination for illegal ivory, a major transit route between countries (especially between Africa and South-East Asia), and also a key exporter of antique ivory to South-East Asian markets. This global market demand saw more than 100,000 elephants killed in a three-year period. Moreover, some countries have seen elephant populations decline by more than 60% in just seven years, according to the Great Elephant Census.
So this announcement is very good news for elephants. There do need to be a few - very specific - exemptions in the legislation, covering areas such as musical instruments and museum pieces. However, we must make sure that these protections for culturally significant items do not create any loopholes.
The new legislation must be enforceable and work for our police officers and Border Force operatives. We need clear, simple interpretations that leave no wiggle room for any ivory trade to continue.
This progress comes on the back of concerted efforts, both from compassionate members of the public and behind-the-scenes lobbying work. In the past year or so, we have seen two Parliamentary debates on ivory, Parliamentary receptions for MPs, and Link partners have had hundreds of one-to-one meetings with politicians (including Michael Gove) to get them on-board. More than 100,000 people signed a government e-petition calling for a ban, and thousands of supporters have contacted decision-makers about the issue.
The key now is for the Government to act quickly. IFAW conducted a survey of MPs and found that 97% were in favour of a ban. There is real momentum, and with the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference due to take place in London in 2018, there is a huge opportunity to get legislation in place quickly.
So what happens next? The Government is running this consultation for three months, and it is key that as many people as possible respond to support a total ban with minor exemptions.
Congratulations to the Government for finally moving forwards with its long-standing promise to tackle the ivory trade – we really hope this becomes law as soon as possible to help save elephants in the wild.
Head of Policy & Campaigns
Follow IFAW on twitter: @IFAWUK
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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