Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Trade in fake antiques threatens elephants

27 November 2017

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

Elephants are being threatened by the trade in newly carved ivory items from recently slaughtered animals, that are being fobbed off as ‘antiques’, and the so-called experts can’t tell the difference.

That’s the claim being made by the Born Free Foundation, which is campaigning for an ivory trade ban in the UK and across Europe.

Born Free’s co-Founder and President Will Travers OBE explained: “A capsicum carved from solid ivory, which was confiscated from an antiques fair at Alexandra Palace in London a year ago, and which no fewer than seven reputable auction houses said they would be happy to offer for sale on the basis that it was manufactured before 1947, and therefore legal to sell without an official certificate, was found to have been carved from ivory taken from an elephant as recently as 2004 . While this is just one item, we believe that many thousands of similar objects are flooding in and out of, and circulating within, the UK, fuelling the continued slaughter of elephants by poachers.”

Born Free organised the carbon-dating of the item by a laboratory at Oxford University.

More than 20,000 African elephants are being slaughtered each year by poachers, to supply ivory into illegal markets in the Far East and across the globe. Africa’s elephant populations have plummeted from maybe 5 million a century ago, to less than half a million today. Asian elephants, which are also impacted by the illegal trade in ivory, are under even greater pressure.

While international trade in ‘new ivory’ has been banned for some years, domestic markets continue to thrive in many countries, and older items can be legally traded internationally, stimulating interest in and demand for ivory. This provides traffickers with a means to launder ‘new’ ivory from slaughtered elephants into trade.

The trade in ivory items into, out of and within the UK is booming. Many of the items are being traded as pre-1947 worked ivory, which means that under current rules the item can be traded within the EU without any official certification. According to recent reports the UK declared exports of more than 35,000 ivory items from 2010-2015 making it the world’s largest exporter, with more than a third of the exports destined for China and Hong Kong. There is real concern that large numbers of items carved from new ivory are being treated to make them look old, and imported into or exported from the UK in order to exploit lucrative markets.

Travers continued: “We do not believe that dealers are able to accurately establish the age or provenance of ivory items by eye. If we are to bring the slaughter of elephants to an end, the trade in ivory items must stop, and any exemptions must be minimal and easily verified. As the world’s largest legal exporter of ivory, and in the lead-up to next year’s Illegal Wildlife Trade summit in London, hosted by the British government, the UK is in a strong position to make a clear statement that it values live elephants over and above commercial trade in antiques and trinkets.”

The Government is consulting on proposals to introduce an ivory trade ban. The consultation period ends on 29th December. Born Free is encouraging members of the public to express their views, and they can find details of how to do this at

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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