UK to introduce ‘one of the world’s toughest’ ivory bans

The UK government will introduce a ban on ivory sales in an effort to reduce elephant poaching after a public consultation attracted more than 70,000 responses.


The ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not just those produced after a certain date – with anyone in breach of the new legislation potentially facing an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail.

In line with approaches taken by other countries, there will be some “narrowly-defined” exemptions for certain items, however, environment secretary Michael Gove said the ban would be among “the world’s toughest”.

“Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol,” Gove said.

“The ban on ivory sales we will bring into law will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.”

The number of elephants across the world has declined by almost a third in the last decade, and approximately 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory.

Exemptions in the UK ivory ban include:

• Items with less than 10% ivory and made prior to 1947
• Musical instruments with ivory content of less than 20% and made prior to 1975
• Rare and important items that are at least 100 years old, which will be assessed by specialist institutions  
• Specific exemptions for portrait miniatures painted on thin slivers of ivory that are at least 100 years old, and for commercial activity between accredited museums.

This is significantly stronger than the US ban which exempts all items that are 100 years old, as well as those with up to 50% ivory content, while Chinese restrictions exempt ‘relics’ without setting a date before they must have been produced.

WWF chief executive, Tanya Steele, said: “This ban makes the UK a global leader in tackling this bloody trade, but if we want to stop the poaching of this majestic animal, we need global action.

“We hope the UK will continue to press countries where the biggest ivory markets are, most of which are in Asia, to shut down their trade too.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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