The UK government has announced a ban on ivory sales that will be one of the strictest in the world and the toughest in Europe, after almost 70,000 responses to the recent ivory consultation.
The ban, which has confirmation of being introduced following huge backing, has only a small number of exceptions which include musical instruments with very little ivory and museum objects and some antiques. Environmental secretary Michael Gove said, “Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations.”
The decision for the ivory ban has been confirmed following last summer’s study which suggested that between 2010 and 2015 Britain was the largest exporter of legal ivory in the world. Wild elephant population numbers have also declined by almost a third in just 10 years, as 20,000 individuals are slaughtered every year to meet the demand for ivory around the world.
Charlie Mayhew, the chief executive of the African wildlife charity Tusk Trust, commented, “The ban will ensure there is no value for modern-day ivory and the tusks of recently poached elephants cannot enter the UK market. We welcome the fact that ministers are sending such a clear message to the world that the illegal wildlife trade will not be tolerated and every effort will be made to halt the shocking decline in Africa’s elephant population in recent years.”
Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF-UK, said, “Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets. 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.”
According to reports, the illegal wildlife trade, which ivory is a huge part of, is worth up to £17 billion a year. Ivory is used as a status symbol, largely in Asia, although many of its buyers do not understand that elephants must be murdered to obtain their ivory tusks. Elephants use their tusks to help with uprooting trees for food, digging for water and defending themselves, and they cannot be removed without brutally killing the animal.
Matthew Hatchwell, the director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London, said, “Legal domestic ivory markets are intrinsically linked to the illegal ivory trade that is driving the current poaching crisis. With almost 20,000 elephants poached in the last year, it is vital that countries take significant steps such as those outlined by the UK government today to close their markets and help make the trade in ivory a thing of the past. No one in the UK today would dream of wearing a tiger-skin coat. Thanks to this move, in a few years’ time we believe the same will be true for the trade in ivory.”
I’m Jess Murray, wildlife conservationist, photographer and writer. Follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to be part of the journey. I like to document the natural world and create awareness through my writing so that your future can be sustainable and positive.