Today’s announcement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove sets out the Government’s plan for a comprehensive ban on the sale of ivory in the UK. It is rightly being welcomed by the key conservation NGO’s who have been calling for such action for many years.
In my documentary series Saving Africa’s Elephants: Hugh and the Ivory War, broadcast a year ago on BBC ONE, I uncovered incontrovertible evidence that ivory pieces from the UK were being exported, both legally and illegally to Asia, to be sold in the very same markets that we know are dealing in recently poached African ivory. I challenged the Conservative Government to act on their manifesto promise of a total ban on ivory sales in the UK. Their initial response was a weak piece of window dressing. But this latest announcement has the wording and the framework to do the job properly.
It is vital that in the upcoming 12 week consultation that the well-documented research and detailed submissions or organisations like Stop Ivory are fully taken on board, and that the four categories of proposed exemptions do not become loopholes that allow the continued trading of UK historical ivory.
As long as ivory of any age or status is traded for profit, in the UK or any other market, it will help fuel the demand and desirability of ivory worldwide. Only a concerted global effort to reduce the demand for ivory will be effective in reducing the horrendous slaughter of African elephants and the disastrous decline in the elephant population. Having witnessed the tragedy of elephant poaching in Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya in my films, and tracked both poached ivory and UK historic ivory to its destinations in Hong Kong, China and Vietnam, I know that the UK must ban ivory sales to play its full part in the international effort to save the elephant.
I’d particularly like to thank the teams from TUSK, Stop Ivory, WildAid and the Born Free Foundation for their support and collaboration on our films. It’s only by working with such dedicated conservationists that we were able to uncover the powerful stories and reveal the hidden connections of this devastating trade.
Hugh and the Keo Films production team.