Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

UK Takes Significant Step Towards Ivory Ban

Animals
UK Takes Significant Step Towards Ivory Ban
iStock

By Elly Pepper

The last few years have seen a number of countries close their ivory markets as a way to help curb the current poaching crisis, which is driving elephants towards extinction. Indeed, the U.S. placed a near-total ban on its ivory market between 2014 and 2016 and China will close its market—the biggest in the world—by the end of this year.

Friday, the United Kingdom—one of the world's largest domestic ivory markets—joined these countries in combating the illegal ivory trade by releasing an impressive proposed ivory ban and requesting public comments.


This is great, much-needed news for elephants, whose populations continue to decline. Indeed, as recognized by the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) last September "countries with domestic ivory markets that contribute to elephant poaching or the illegal ivory trade" should "take all necessary legislative, regulatory and enforcement measures to close [such] markets ... as a matter of urgency."

Elly Pepper

And, by their very existence, any legal ivory market leads to a parallel illegal market since ivory from recently-killed elephants can be made to look like old ivory, which is legal in many countries, through processes like chipping, staining, and cracking.

The UK has long played a role in the international ivory trade. Indeed, 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. Much of that ivory remains in the UK today, fueling the market. Additionally, trade data indicates that the UK is the world's largest exporter of 'legal' ivory, most of which goes to Asian destinations like China and Hong Kong.

The problem is that the UK's ivory rules just aren't strong enough and allow a great deal of abuse. Fortunately, the proposal the government released Friday is robust and would make a huge difference in curbing the country's trade. Specifically, the government's proposal would ban all sales of ivory in the UK, as well as the import and export of ivory to and from the UK, including intra-EU trade to and from the UK. The ban would likely include some narrowly-defined exemptions for musical instruments, items of "significant artistic, cultural and historic value," and items containing a de minimis amount of ivory. Further, under the proposal, museums would continue to be able to buy and display ivory. While the details still need to be worked out to prevent exploitation of these loopholes, overall the proposal is a huge step forwards.

Importantly, the UK's proposal will also send a strong signal of encouragement to China, helping ensure that the ivory ban it finalizes at the end of this year will be strongly enforced. Indeed, with the UK serving as the primary exporter of ivory to China and Hong Kong, weak ivory rules in the UK could derail a Chinese ivory ban. But this proposal will help ensure against that—and will hopefully lead other countries to ban their ivory markets as well.

As a wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Elly Pepper protects threatened and endangered species and their habitats by working to enact federal and state regulations and laws and by fighting back against harmful proposals regarding elephant ivory, the Endangered Species Act, and other issues.

Boletus mushrooms such as these are on the menu at ONA restaurant in Arès, France. Jarry / Tripelon / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)

For the first time ever, a vegan restaurant in France has been awarded a coveted Michelin star.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Samples of chocolate, strawberry and taro ice cream in the Chinese city of Tianjin tested positive for coronavirus. Alex Lau / Conde Nast via Getty Images

Ice cream samples in the Chinese municipality of Tianjin have tested positive for traces of the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Workers install solar panels on a house near downtown Oakland, California. Grid Alternatives

By Galen Barbose, Eric O'Shaughnessy and Ryan Wiser

Until recently, rooftop solar panels were a clean energy technology that only wealthy Americans could afford. But prices have dropped, thanks mostly to falling costs for hardware, as well as price declines for installation and other "soft" costs.

Read More Show Less
Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less
A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

Read More Show Less