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Born Free calls on UK Government to shut down domestic ivory market

18 January 2017

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News, Wildlife Trade News

e-Petition passes 100,000 signatures

Implementation of Manifesto pledge is long overdue

International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, is calling on the UK Government to deliver on its Manifesto commitment to a “total ban on ivory sales” after an e-petition calling for the UK domestic ivory market to be shut down passed the 100,000 threshold needed to trigger a debate in Parliament.

The e-petition, launched by Ellen Cobb and supported by Born Free and many others, urges the Government to shut down the domestic ivory market in the UK” because 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered a year for their tusks yet the Government has still not outlawed the trade”.

A debate on this issue will now take place in Parliament on 6th February.

Will Travers OBE, President of the Born Free Foundation, said: “The measures announced by DEFRA Ministers so far have been weak and largely meaningless – only restricting sales of raw ivory and worked items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day. This leaves pre-1947, so-called ‘antique’, ivory items, available for sale and the official data makes it clear that the volumes of ivory leaving this country for China and other destinations are highly significant. Only a ban can choke off this trade and ensure the UK is no longer complicit in fuelling demand for ivory, a demand that destroys tens of thousands of elephants each and every year.”

Ellen Cobb added: I launched the e-petition because I was shocked when I found out that ivory was still being traded in the UK. We are going into the debate with so much support from the public and conservation groups - sending a clear message to the Government that it is now time for a total ban on ivory in the UK. Since I started this e-petition, I estimate that around 14,000 more elephants have been poached for their tusks. The UK Government needs to send a message to the world that saving elephants from extinction is much more important than the sale of antiques.”

The e-petition was supported by a host of conservationists and celebrities, including Bryan Adams, Gordon Buchanan, Nicky Campbell, Peter Egan, Ricky Gervais, Bear Grylls, Stephen Fry, Lord Hague of Richmond, Amanda Holden, Eamonn Holmes, Rachel Hunter, Bianca Jagger, Gary Lineker, Davina McCall, Brian May, Deborah Meaden, Chris Packham, Gaby Roslin, Jenny Seagrove and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

In their 2015 Manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to “continue to lead the world in stopping the poaching that kills thousands of elephants each year” and “press for a total ban on ivory sales”. In September 2016, the Government announced that it would consult on plans to ban modern day (post-1947) sales of worked ivory, but excluded any mention of items dated from before 1947. However, hard-hitting BBC1 documentary Saving Africa’s Elephants: Hugh and the Ivory War, broadcast in October 2016, uncovered evidence that criminals are exploiting legal loopholes in the UK ivory market by selling illegal ivory as ‘antique’.

Worryingly, the UK is the largest exporter of ivory items by number among EU Member States with declared exports of 25,351 ivory items (54% of the EU total) between 2006-2015, the overwhelming majority (99.8%) of which were described as ‘ivory carvings’. The largest proportion of UK exports of ivory items by number were exported to the United States (46.8%), followed by China (28.2%) and Australia (5.6%).*

The UK is also lagging behind other international players in its failure to take measures to enact a total ban. The United States of America announced a near total ban on commercial ivory trade in July 2016, and last month China, the world’s largest ivory market, unveiled plans to stop all commercial processing and sale of ivory by 31 March 2017, and to completely shut down its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017.

UK residents can continue to sign the e-petition until 28th February 2017. Born Free is also urging the public to contact their MP to ask them to attend the crucial Parliamentary debate on 6th February.

Key Facts

  • On 30th December 2016, China said it would stop all commercial processing and sale of ivory by 31 March 2017, and completely shut down its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017
  • Saving Africa’s Elephants: Hugh and the Ivory War (24th October 2016), used radiocarbon dating on nine carved ivory pieces bought online in the UK. The results found six of the nine pieces were likely to be illegal. Four were post-1947 ivory and two had been recently reworked
  • In October 2016, delegates at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to end a decade-long discussion about the establishment of future trade in ivory
  • In September 2016, a motion passed at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, encouraged governments to close their domestic markets for elephant ivory as a matter of urgency
  • The Great Elephant Census, published in August 2016, revealed there are now less than 400,000 savannah elephants and that savannah elephant numbers have plummeted by 30% over the past seven years.

Petition -

*CITES trade statistics derived from the CITES Trade Database, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.

Image: © LAGA

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