Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Great News for Elephants: UK to Introduce Legislation Banning Its Ivory Market

Animals
Great News for Elephants: UK to Introduce Legislation Banning Its Ivory Market

GreenDreamsPhotography / Flickr

By Elly Pepper

The UK government announced Tuesday that it will soon introduce new primary legislation introducing a near-total ivory ban.

The announcement comes several months after the UK's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs commenced a public comment period on an impressive proposed ivory ban. About 130,000 individuals and organizations responded—88 percent of which were in favor of the ban—making it one of the largest consultations in UK history (see a summary of those responses here).


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 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."

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.

Like most other bans enacted over the past several years, the proposed legislation will include a few narrow exemptions for certain items containing a de minimis amount of ivory, certain musical instruments, portrait miniatures painted on ivory that are over 100 years old, and purchases by accredited museums. There will also be an exception for "the most rare and valuable cultural, historic and cultural articles as assessed by an independent accredited expert"—something NRDC and other groups oppose as it could be used as a loophole for the illegal ivory trade. Anyone found in violation of the new laws can face an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail.

However, all in all, this is very positive news! We'll be helping to push the legislation through Parliament and defend it from auctioneers and antique dealers, many of whom are opposing the ban despite the significant accommodations it provides them through its exemptions. And hopefully this news will also spur action in other large and/or emerging markets like Japan, Laos, and the European Union—the latter of which recently conducted a public consultation on an ivory ban but has not yet led to any action.

Reindeers at their winter location in northern Sweden on Feb. 4, 2020, near Ornskoldsvik. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP via Getty Images

Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, experienced some of their warmest temperatures on record in the summer of 2020. Ken Ilio / Moment / Getty Images

Heatwaves are not just distinct to the land. A recent study found lakes are susceptible to temperature rise too, causing "lake heatwaves," The Independent reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Starfish might appear simple creatures, but the way these animals' distinctive biology evolved was, until recently, unknown. FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

By Aaron W Hunter

A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.

Read More Show Less
U.S. President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2021. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

President Joe Biden officially took office Wednesday, and immediately set to work reversing some of former President Donald Trump's environmental policies.

Read More Show Less
Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

In many schools, the study of climate change is limited to the science. But at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, students in one class also learn how to take climate action.

Read More Show Less