Every day, an elephant is poached in Africa every 26 minutes. This appalling slaughter continues due to the global demand for ivory, with the majority of elephant tusks smuggled by criminals to Asia, despite an international trade ban.
You may not realise it, but some trade in ivory is still legal in the UK, including, for example, antique ivory produced before 1947. On Monday 6 February 2017 MPs discussed the UK’s domestic ivory trade in a Westminster Hall debate, with the government launching a public consultation on the issue. Alarmingly, recent evidence has revealed that the UK’s legal ivory market has been used as a cover for trade in illegal ivory and some shipments are destined for Asia – showing that current regulations must be strengthened.
THE UK NEEDS TO DEMONSTRATE GLOBAL LEADERSHIP
We are calling for a ban on the legal elephant ivory trade in the UK, to stop any contribution to stimulating the global demand for ivory which drives the poaching of elephants. We urge the UK government to close ‘antique’ as well as ‘modern’ ivory markets. Such commitment from the UK would set a precedent for other countries worldwide where demand for ivory strongly contributes to the ongoing elephant poaching crisis.
In the last year, we’ve seen monumental steps in the battle against elephant poaching including China, which has the world’s largest ivory market, announcing they will ban domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. Now it’s time for the UK to take a stand for elephants and demonstrate global leadership on the closure of domestic ivory markets.
We're urging countries to make and uphold strong commitments to close domestic ivory markets before the 2018 London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade. Particular focus must be on countries that are major markets for illegal and legal ivory, including China, Thailand and Vietnam.
The UK should not have any part in the global illegal ivory trade. The Conservative Party pledged a ban on ivory sales in the UK in its 2010 and 2015 manifestoes – now is the time to uphold these promises. Introducing a ban sends a powerful message that the UK is committed to the protection of the world’s threatened elephants and reinforces the UK’s role as a global leader in tackling illegal wildlife trade.
THE CHALLENGE IS INTERNATIONAL
However, bans on domestic ivory trade will not be enough to stem the relentless poaching of wild elephants. It is critical that governments worldwide unite to tackle the illegal ivory trade and address corruption, as well as improve law enforcement and demand reduction strategies. The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest illegal trade behind drugs, human trafficking and counterfeiting, worth over an estimated £15 billion annually. It is a serious, organised crime that is decimating wildlife populations, threatening local livelihoods and fuelling further criminal activity.
We’re encouraging our government to continue its good work overseas to combat illegal wildlife trade and to work with countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, to shut down their legal and illegal ivory markets. It’s also important to make sure China effectively delivers its promise to ban all ivory trade by the end of this year.
We are committed to safeguarding the future of elephants across Africa and Asia. We're tackling the multiple threats facing these magnificent and intelligent creatures; from poaching and habitat loss, to climate change and human-elephant conflict. We’re supporting the rangers in the field who work tirelessly to protect elephants and other threatened wildlife and developing solutions such as using the latest modern technology to help elephants and people live safely alongside each other.