The UK will impose a ban on ivory sales to help bring an end to the poaching of elephants, under plans announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove on Friday.
The Environment Secretary said the proposals will protect elephants and help combat poaching by removing opportunities for criminals to trade illegally-poached ivory. The plans will be subject to a 12 week consultation.
A statement from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural affairs lamented that the number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory.
“If current rates of poaching continue, elephants could become extinct within decades in some African countries, meaning that future generations of children may only see these majestic creatures alive in zoos”, it added.
It posited further that “the decline of elephants would also deprive some of the poorest countries in the world of their valuable natural capital, affecting economic growth and sustainable development.
“As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organised enterprise, estimated to be worth up to £17 billion a year”.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation. The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute.
Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol – so we want to ban its sale.
These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory.
The consultation proposes four categories of exemptions:
- musical instruments;
- items containing only a small proportion of ivory, a de minimis exemption;
- items of significant historic, artistic or cultural value;
- sales to and between museums
The government will work with conservationists, the arts and antiques sectors and other interested parties through the consultation period on exactly how these exemptions can be defined, implemented and enforced so as to ensure there is no room for loopholes which continue to fuel the poaching of elephants.