As Stop Ivory and its NGO partners work together to halt the devastating decline in elephant populations caused by poaching for the illegal ivory trade, we welcome the announcement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove of the UK Government’s plans to ban sales of ivory of all ages.
The UK ivory market contributes to the international illegal ivory trade. Thousands of pieces of ivory are still traded in the UK each year. During the colonial era, more than a million elephants were killed to feed British demand for everything from ivory ornaments and piano keys to billiard balls and cutlery. Today, trade data indicates that the UK is the world’s largest exporter of ‘legal’ ivory – most of which goes to Asian destinations such as China and Hong Kong. Our markets fuel consumer demand for ivory that sees up to 20,000 African elephants killed by poachers every year. They must be closed down.
China and Hong Kong have embarked on the process of closing their commercial ivory markets. It is critical that the UK stops its commercial exports to those same markets so we do not undermine their efforts.
85% of the British population supports a closure of the UK domestic market.
The announcement of the proposals and the associated consultation is a welcome step towards implementing the Government’s longstanding commitment to close the UK ivory market. This is in line with calls from African governments acting through the African Elephant Coalition and the UK-supported Elephant Protection Initiative, as well as the UK’s obligations under international conventions. Action at home is a crucial part of the UK’s contribution to the fight against poaching, the illegal ivory trade and the wider illegal wildlife trade.
The level of public support for closing down the market will be very important when the Government considers the responses to the consultation. The announcement today shows that the Government recognises the need to take action, so we urge those who care about elephants to take part in the consultation, make their views known and help the Government to do the right thing.