‘Landmark' ivory ban comes into force today - but unscrupulous traders can still evade it, campaigners say | Totally Vegan Buzz

‘Landmark’ ivory ban comes into force today – but unscrupulous traders can still evade it, campaigners say

Botswana sells 60 elephant shooting permits in 'conservation disaster'
Image: Volodymyr Burdiak / shutterstock

According to campaigners, ivory peddlers may continue to sell elephant tusks by passing their products as derivatives from unprotected mammals such as walruses, narwhals, and hippos.

The UK has finally banned trade in elephant teeth and tusks in a bid to tackle poaching and help protect elephants but campaigners say the move doesn’t go far enough.

The UK Ivory Act, which comes into force today (6th June) imposes a near total ban on the import, export, and dealing of items containing elephant ivory.

Offenders will face fines of up to £250,000 or up to five years in prison under the new law.

“Elephants are commonly targeted for their ivory tusks and the demand for ivory is known to contribute to poaching, driving a decline in elephant populations. The ban will ensure vital protection for the world’s elephants by putting a stop to the UK trade in ivory,”’ the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said in a statement.

The ban covers ivory items of all ages unless they have been registered or have an exemption certificate.

Some of the exempted items include portrait miniatures, musical instruments, items with low ivory content, sales to qualifying museums, and rare/important items.

According to the department, the ruling has been planned to provide “balance to ensure people are not unfairly impacted” and for “items which do not contribute to the poaching of elephants”.

‘Landmark moment’

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “The world-leading Ivory Act coming into force represents a landmark moment in securing the survival of elephants across the globe for future generations.

“Thousands of elephants are unnecessarily and cruelly targeted for their ivory every year for financial gain.

“As one of the toughest bans of its kind, we are sending a clear message that the commercial trade of elephant ivory is totally unacceptable. The UK has long led the way in conservation and our ban shows continued global leadership in doing all we can to protect the world’s most endangered species.”

Not enough to stop illegal ivory trade

While the new law has been widely welcomed by conservationists, the delay has allowed the ivory trade to find new ways of exploiting animals. Moreover, unscrupulous ivory traders can still evade the new UK ban as it fails to protect other species.

According to campaigners, ivory peddlers may continue to sell elephant tusks by passing their products as derivatives from unprotected mammals such as walruses, narwhals, and hippos.

Furthermore, there is a thriving online marketplace for ivory trade. A research commissioned by Wildlife charity Born Free, found 1,832 overt and covert listings of ivory-containing products worth £1.1m listed for sale on three UK online marketplaces in a single month in late 2021.

Born Free’s policy support officer, Frankie Osuch said: “I know that the ivory trade is a global issue, but I was shocked by how many ivory items I found here in the UK.

“Assessing ivory demand and value is important as this has been linked to elephant poaching rates. I hope that the new sanctions associated with the Ivory Act will be enough to encourage compliance among all traders.”

The charity’s report discovered that 95% of the listings that sought to sell ivory disguised or described as something else were on eBay UK. The platform already prohibits the selling of ivory. However, many of these covert items were tagged as “bone”, “ivorine” or “faux ivory”.

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s head of policy, added: “The government must now ensure that the system they have introduced to prevent the trade in most elephant ivory is sufficiently robust to ensure only items that genuinely meet the exemption criteria can be traded. Our research demonstrates the sheer scale of online trade in ivory in the UK.”

Response

Commenting on the findings a eBay spokesperson said: “eBay is a founding member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online.

 “We have been working to tackle the illegal trade in elephant ivory for many years, and work alongside WWF and IFAW to continually update our policies and processes.

“We have global teams dedicated to enforcing our policies, and over a recent two-year period we blocked or removed over 265,000 listings prohibited under our animal products policy.”

The UK government is also considering extending the Ivory Act to other ivory-bearing species and will publish the response to the consultation later this year.

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