06 October 2017
- WWF welcomes the UK Government’s announcement of a public consultation on plans to end the elephant ivory trade
- Three quarters of the UK public want the government to ban the ivory trade*
A ban on the UK’s elephant ivory trade must be confirmed within the next twelve months if the country is to maintain its role as a global leader on ending the illegal wildlife trade, said WWF today. The call comes as the UK Government announced its much-anticipated public consultation on plans to impose stricter controls on the country’s ivory trade.
WWF welcomes the consultation, which comes almost exactly a year before the 2018 London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, where it is expected that world leaders will agree to strengthen delivery of international commitments to help eradicate illegal wildlife trade and better protect the world’s wildlife from this threat.
Tanya Steele, WWF CEO said:
“The Government’s plans show the UK wants to continue to be a leader in the fight to end the large scale poaching of elephants. After campaigning hard to stop the UK ivory trade, we know there’s a long way to go and there’s no time to waste. Whilst discussions roll on, 55** African elephants a day are killed. We need to be the generation that ends the illegal ivory trade once and for all.
“This illegal trade involving organised criminals is a global problem requiring global solutions: to end it anywhere means ending it everywhere. This is about a lot more than banning ivory sales in one country. It means working with global leaders and communities around the world, particularly in China and south-east Asia, to implement bans and stop the illegal trade.”
A recent poll by Populus for WWF showed that 75 per cent of the UK public back a ban on the ivory trade in the UK, while 9 out of 10 respondents said they are concerned about the threat to elephants caused by poaching.*
WWF is calling for stricter controls on the trade in ‘antique’ as well as ‘modern’ ivory. Much of the ivory trade has already been banned in the UK, but there are some exceptions when trading an ‘antique’, i.e. ivory that was worked (meaning substantially carved) before March 1947, or with a government issued certificate for ‘modern’ items, worked between 1947 and 1990. All trade in ivory carved post-1990 and in raw (uncarved) ivory is already banned.
It is estimated that around 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers for their ivory every year. Although the UK is not considered to be one of the markets that contributes the most to the global illegal ivory trade, evidence*** has revealed that the UK’s legal ivory market has been used as a cover for trade in illegal ivory. The UK also makes legal shipments of ivory antiques to Asia, which has the largest ivory markets that are driving the poaching crisis. There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of legal ivory being re-exported from the UK to China since 2005. This shows that the UK’s current policies must be strengthened.
The consultation will be the first time in history that the UK public has been given the opportunity to officially comment on ivory trade regulations. During the 12-week government consultation, organisations and individuals can voice their opinions and offer evidence on the impact of the UK’s ivory trade. The consultation follows the Conservative Party’s pledge to press for the end of ivory sales in their 2010 manifesto - a promise that was reiterated in 2015.
In the last 12 months there has been significant progress worldwide to reduce demand for elephant ivory and stem elephant poaching.
- In December 2016 China, home to the world’s largest legal and illegal ivory markets, announced it will ban domestic trade by the end of 2017.
- In July 2016 the US introduced a near-total ban.
- In December 2016 Hong Kong, the largest city market for ivory, announced its timetable for closing its domestic market. In June 2017 a bill was launched to ban the ivory trade by 2021.
- In March 2017 Singapore announced it will consider banning its ivory trade.
WWF has launched a petition calling on the UK Government to help stop the elephant poaching crisis www.wwf.org.uk/stopivorytrade.
Notes to the editor
* The survey of 2064 UK adults was conducted by Populus for WWF-UK (July 2017).
** Based on the recent estimate that around 20,000 elephants are killed by poachers in Africa each year.
*** Evidence of laundering was shown last autumn during the BBC ‘ Saving Africa’s Elephants: Hugh and the Ivory War’ programme, in which 4 of 9 ivory carvings for sale online reporting to be antiques were illegal as they were found to be from elephants which had died after the 1947 cut-off date for antiques and 2 of 9 were illegal as they were older ivory that had been reworked recently.