Herd of elephants in the wild in Botswana

UK’s ivory trade ‘ban’ just so much smoke and mirrors

UK Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom today announced plans for a ban on ‘modern day’ ivory sales, a move she claimed would put the country’s rules on ivory sales among the world’s toughest.

But the proposal outlined by the Government does not go nearly far enough and is effectively only a tightening of the present outdated regulations – the ivory trade in Britain will not be banned, nor even be further restricted.

Meanwhile, elephants throughout Africa will still be killed in their tens of thousands every year as domestic markets mask the illegal trade.

Other countries, including the US and France, have gone much further than the UK’s proposals and have enacted near-total bans on the ivory trade, despite survey data showing that 85 per cent of the British public supports a total ban.

The UK must pull its weight in global conservation efforts and close its domestic ivory market as well as voting in favour of a resolution to close all domestic ivory markets which will be tabled next week at the 17th Conference of Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in South Africa.

Reacting to the Environment Secretary’s statement, EIA Executive Director Mary Rice, in Johannesburg for CoP17, said: “Now is not the time for Britain to be shy in its global leadership. It’s time for a decisive announcement of substantive action at home and meaningful leadership on the global stage to ensure elephant populations are not wiped out across Africa.

“A ban on all ivory trade in the UK has been in the Conservative Party’s manifesto for some years now and it’s clear the British public wants the trade shut down. Botswana, which holds the world’s largest elephant population, announced this week that it wants to see a global ban on all international and domestic ivory markets – as clear a signal as could be wanted for all governments, including the UK, to follow.

“The evidence shows that the UK’s legal market provides cover for the illegal international trade, a wholly unacceptable state of affairs for a country which has shown strong leadership on elephant conservation over the last three years in particular.

“The only meaningful way the UK can stop contributing to the killing of elephants is to close its ivory market and in so doing show others the way forward.

“Elephants no longer have time for these kind of half-measures. It is to be hoped that the Government ultimately announces a far stronger and more meaningful commitment.”