UK Government Announces Proposal To Finally Ban Ivory Trade


Dami Olonisakin

Editorial Assistant

Janco Du Plessis/Shutterstock

The UK government has conceded to place a ban on nearly all ivory, to help put a stop to elephants being poached in Africa.

The last major consensus carried out, and the first ever pan-African one, revealed a worrying decline in elephant populations: a huge 30 percent drop between 2007 and 2014. According to the WWF: “Around 20,000 African elephants are killed every year for their ivory tusks, and evidence has revealed that the UK’s legal ivory market has been used as a cover for trade in illegal ivory.”


The UK is currently the largest exporters of legal ivory in the world, more than three times bigger than the US, and it mainly goes to Asia.

Currently, the UK does have a ban on the trade of ivory for any that is produced after 1947. This new consultation is to include in the ban any ivory that has been owned and worked on before 1947, because all this rule had resulted in was ivory being cosmetically aged to look like it was antique, to get through barriers. There will be some items that are exempt, however, such as musical instruments and items of cultural importance.

This is, In fact, quite a bit of a backtrack for the UK government as despite this proposal being included in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, it had disappeared from the 2017 version that came out around the time of the general election in June. 

"Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol - so we want to ban its sale,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove said today. "These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory."


The complete ban on ivory is slowly making headway. Last year, the Convention International Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) convention agreed to make the international ban include domestic trade, a step China surprisingly agreed with, declaring it would ban its own ivory trade by the end of 2017.

Pressure from influential figures that include Prince William, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, the WWF and the Stop Ivory group went some way towards the government's decision to put the ban back on the table. 

“Along with our partners, we congratulate the government on this important step and look forward to working with it to ensure the ban is implemented robustly and without delay,” John Stephenson from Stop Ivory told the Guardian.

Tanya Steel, WWF chief executive, said that this step was about “a lot more than banning ivory sales in one country... we need to be the generation that ends the illegal ivory trade once and for all."


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