AUSTRALIA ON WAY TO IVORY AND RHINO HORN BAN

Born Free is very pleased to hear that a Commonwealth of Australia Parliamentary Inquiry has recommended a domestic trade ban on both elephant ivory and rhino horn. This announcement represents a critical step forward in protecting elephants and rhinos in the wild. 

The Inquiry, under a Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, was initiated in March 2018 against the backdrop of relentless and ongoing poaching across Africa and Asia, and trafficking across the globe, which has seen a catastrophic decline in elephants and rhinos throughout their range. 

Gabriel Fava, Born Free’s Associate Director for Asia & Oceania, said: “Born Free warmly congratulates the committee Chair and its other members on its work over the past few months, and is much encouraged by the outcome. Any unregulated or poorly regulated environment in a country with a market for these gory remains undermines efforts across the world to address elephant and rhino poaching, and can be resolved relatively easily. The Australian Inquiry’s recommendations will now be considered by its House of Representatives, and we urge that to be done with the utmost urgency. Lives are at stake.” 

In Australia there is currently ‘no legal requirements on sellers, auctioneers or electronic marketplaces to provide evidence at the point of sale which demonstrates the legal importation, provenance, or age of an elephant or rhino specimen’. This means that although Australia, like the vast majority of countries, has a ban in place on the commercial international trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, from the point when these commodities are successfully smuggled across its national borders, in every practical sense, it’s a free for all. 

Australia is far from unique in this respect, but its government has now shown the courage and willingness to reconsider the status of its national legislation, and while it should be applauded for doing so, systemic issues which compound the situation also need dispassionate and committed consideration. Chief among these is weak wildlife law enforcement, from lax border controls to poor investment in investigations and a lack of prosecutions and deterrent sentencing of criminals involved in wildlife trafficking. These and other points were made in support of a national ban in a written statement by Born Free to the Committee.

Other countries have already implemented, or are in the process of, implementing national bans on elephant ivory. These include the US, UK, China, Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan. Other countries, key to both legal and illegal ivory trading, such as the EU and its Member States, are considering national bans. In the case of an ivory ban, the Inquiry report recommends that Australia follow in the footsteps of the UK, whose Ivory Bill allows for specific exemptions. No exemptions have been put forwards in respect of a rhino horn ban. 

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