Great News for Elephants: UK to Introduce Legislation Banning Its Ivory Market
GreenDreamsPhotography / Flickr
By Elly Pepper
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.
Ivory Trade in China Is Now Banned https://t.co/qGVZLinO8q @environmentca @wwf_uk @ConservationOrg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1514933111.0
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.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
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.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›