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Ivory banned, elephants protected

"Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol." These were the words of Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, this week, as the UK Government announced a ban on ivory sales will go ahead, with a pledge that the ban will be the toughest in Europe and one of the toughest in the world.

April 2018

Link members have long been campaigning for this to happen, and for the UK to end its role in a trade that is contributing to the slaughter of more than 20,000 elephants a year, pushing this magnificent species to a tipping point.

The announcement follows a public consultation, which closed in December with more than 70,000 people making their views known, making this one of Defra’s most engaging consultations of all time. This shows what huge public support there is for action to help save elephants. According to a recent YouGov poll, an overwhelming 95% of people in the UK would never want to purchase ivory, even if it was ‘antique’.

We’re especially pleased that the proposed new legislation will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date, as is currently the case - and also contains tough new penalties to act as a real deterrent. Michael Gove also confirmed that, in line with the approach taken by other countries such as the United States and China, there will be certain narrowly-defined and carefully-targeted exemptions for items which do not contribute to the poaching of elephants.

The new exemptions for the ivory ban include certain musical instruments, rare and historically important items over 100 years old, antique miniatures and trade between museums. We’re in favour of a pragmatic ban that will make a real difference to the current poaching crisis, so it’s great to see that the Government has taken our input on board, and is now poised to introduce strong legislation that should consign the ivory trade to the history books where it belongs.

By showing global leadership, we hope that the UK ban will also encourage the European Union, and other countries around the world to outlaw ivory, too. Only with global action can we save elephants for future generations.

The Government is sending a clear message that ivory belongs to the past and that it is unacceptable that elephants are being killed on an industrial scale for a few trinkets. Link members in the Wildlife Crime and Trade Group will be doing everything we can to ensure this ban comes into place as quickly as possible.

David Cowdrey

Head of Policy & Campaigns, IFAW

Follow @IFAWUK on twitter.

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.