European Union’s proposal to close its ivory market is riddled with major loopholes

The European Union has unveiled a plan to close its domestic ivory market – but while the move to further restrict trade in ivory is both welcome and long overdue, it falls far short of what is needed.

Ivory carvings seized in Belgium (c) EIAimage

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and 27 other world-leading conservation and animal welfare organisations – including Born Free, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defense Council, WildAid, Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London – have joined forces to issue a joint statement of key concerns and recommendations to strengthen the EU’s draft proposal.

For example, although the proposal claims it is seeking to reduce demand for ivory and trade in “high-risk” ivory items, it allows commercial unregulated trade in carvings made wholly of ivory weighing less than 200g and purporting to be pre-1947.

This is a major loophole which would facilitate the laundering of illegal ivory by encouraging trade in ‘small’ ivory carvings such as jewellery and trinkets, many of which are likely to be machine-made.

An elephant killed by poaching

Poaching in Africa – the price of ivory trade (c) EIAimage

There is almost universal international support for the closure of domestic ivory markets globally, including the majority of African elephant range states which have not only closed their own domestic ivory markets but are now calling on the EU to follow suit to protect Africa’s last remaining elephant populations.

Further, in what was one of the largest public consultations under the EU framework, at least 90 per cent of those responding called for a ban on the EU ivory trade.

Shruti Suresh, EIA Senior Wildlife Campaigner, said: “We therefore urge the EU to heed the calls for action from world governments, conservation experts and European citizens to urgently adopt revisions to its proposal to make it fit for purpose and in line with best practice.

“To protect and save elephants, half-hearted and confusing policy responses will not do – we need decisive action and we need it now!”