The Elephant Protection Initiative recognises that domestic ivory markets must be closed if elephant populations are to survive.
Answering calls by the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) – an African-led, results-oriented partnership initiative to stop the illegal ivory trade – the UK government today made a landmark announcement proposing a full ban on domestic ivory sales.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove , announcing the proposals, joined a growing global consensus by insisting that ivory should not be considered a commodity or a source of financial gain. Gove announced the move as a measure against criminals using legal markets as cover to trade in illegal ivory, which has contributed to the continued decimation of Africa’s elephants.
Through a 12-week consultation period, starting today, the Government will work with conservationists, the arts and antiques sectors and other interested parties on legislation for a ban. This will include work to define exemptions for items less likely to contribute to elephant poaching so as to not leave loopholes that the illegal ivory trade can still exploit – items such as: musical instruments, items containing very small amounts of ivory, items of significant historic, artistic or cultural value, and ivory exchanged between museums.
On behalf of the 16 Elephant Protection Initiative Member States, I welcome the UK Government’s announcement today that it intends to introduce a total ban on the ivory trade. The illegal ivory trade threatens not only the survival of our elephants and environment, but the stability and security of our communities who daily face the threat of illegal armed poaching gangs and traffickers. By taking this step, the UK Government further underlines its support for our initiative to protect our elephants for the good of our people as well as for their own sake. We look forward to seeing the ban in place before we return to London for the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in 2018.” said Kumara Wakjira, Chair of the EPI Implementing Board.
Over the last two decades, poaching and illegal wildlife trade in and around protected areas in Africa have been on the rise. Between 2009 and 2014, Mozambique lost half its elephants, while Tanzania lost a staggering 60% – an estimated 95,000 individuals from these two countries alone. As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organized enterprise; estimated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to be worth up to $20 billion a year, making it the fourth biggest illicit activity after trade in guns and drugs, and human trafficking..
Since its inception in 2014 at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in February 2014, the EPI member states has worked with partners to secure change in elephant protection polices, both locally and on a global platform, to ensure a meaningful future for Africa’s wild elephants.
“As one of the founding members of the EPI, the Chadian government welcomes this great news. Poaching and illegal ivory trade are destroying our natural capital, but the UK’s announcement fortifies our hope for Africa’s elephants. We congratulate the UK Government, and encourage all other countries that have not closed their domestic markers to consider following this example”, said Dr. Dolmia Malachie from Chad’s Ministry of Environment.
Recently, the UK was identified as one of the world’s largest exporters of ‘legal’ ivory – most of which goes to Asian countries such as China and Hong Kong. Thousands of pieces of ivory are still traded in the UK each year ad the UK markets fuel consumer demand for ivory that sees up to 20,000 African elephants killed by poachers every year. With this announcement, the UK joins other key countries such as the US and China, that have also been key destination for poached ivory, in supporting this work.
Current UK laws allow worked ivory items produced before 3 March 1947 to be traded within the UK and other EU countries, while the trade of raw ivory of any age is prohibited. The existing regulations will be considerably strengthened through the new proposals.
“Stop Ivory and its partners welcome today’s action by the UK Government. By starting the process to bring in a total ban on ivory sales in the UK, the Government continues to work with the African countries leading the Elephant Protection Initiative to secure a meaningful future for elephants across Africa – the initiative the Government helped launch at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in 2014. The unprecedented crisis we face – with Africa’s natural heritage being destroyed and communities put at risk due to poaching by illegal armed gangs – will only stop when people stop buying ivory. Along with our partners, we congratulate the Government on this important step and look forward to working with it and our colleagues to ensure the ban is implemented robustly and without delay.” said John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivory.