LONDON, UK, December 21, 2018 (ENS) – One of the world’s strictest bans on ivory sales became law in the United Kingdom today as the Ivory Bill gained Royal Assent to become the Ivory Act 2018.

Since the Bill was introduced on May 23, it has rapidly cleared Parliamentary processes, with support from across the House. It is expected to take effect in late 2019.

elephants

Elephants drinking at a water hole in Kenya, Nov. 6, 2018 (Photo by aecole2010)

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

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said, “The Ivory Act is a landmark in our fight to protect wildlife and the environment. The speed of its passage through Parliament shows the strength of feeling on all sides of the House on this critical issue.”

“The UK has shown global leadership and delivered on a key commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan,” said Gove. “We are determined to end this insidious trade and make sure ivory is never seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.”

Once it takes effect late next year, the Act will:

* – Introduce a total ban on dealing in items containing elephant ivory, regardless of their age, within the UK, as well as export from or import to the UK.

* – Create narrow and carefully defined set of exemptions: for items with less than 10 percent ivory; musical instruments with less than 20 percent ivory; for portrait miniatures painted on thin slivers of ivory; sales to and between accredited museums; and items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historic significance, made before 1918.

* – Establish a new compliance system to allow owners to continue to trade in exempt items.

* – Introduce tough new penalties for those found guilty of breaching the ban, including fines and possible imprisonment.

ivory carving

Ivory carving of Hercules and the Hydra’s head, Italian or South German, circa 1600 to 1650. Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London (Photo by Can Pac Swire)

During October, Environment Secretary Gove launched the Ivory Alliance 2024, a coalition of political leaders, conservationists and celebrities dedicated to defeating the illegal trade in ivory and establishing ivory sales bans in other countries around the globe.

The Ivory Alliance 2024 aims to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants by at least one-third by the end of 2020, and two-thirds by the end of 2024.

Ambitions for the Ivory Alliance are based on data from the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program.

Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand said, “I am delighted to see the UK’s domestic ivory ban is now law and to be part of the Secretary of State’s Ivory Alliance 2024, which will tackle the demand side of the severe poaching crisis we have seen in the past decade. This crucial agenda has my strong support, and I look forward to playing my part by engaging government leaders on strong legislation and enforcement.”

This show of leadership from the UK comes at a crucial time for wildlife conservation internationally. It will go a long way towards influencing countries, including New Zealand and Australia, on movement towards their own bans.

Support from Non-Governmental Organisations working in international conservation: Will Travers OBE and Virginia McKenna OBE, co-founders of the Born Free Foundation, said, “Protecting wild elephants from the ravages of the bloody ivory trade requires anti-poaching; intelligence gathering; trafficking interception; deterrent sentencing; public education in market countries; and ending the trade in ivory – all ivory.”

“The measures taken by the Westminster government to bring near-complete closure to the UK’s domestic ivory market – one of the largest in the world – are fully endorsed by the Born Free Foundation and have overwhelming support in the country,” said Travers and McKenna. “They are not only practical, workable and effective, but send a powerful signal that we no longer value the teeth of dead elephants, but champion the compassionate conservation of wild, free-living elephants and the habitats they rely on.”

Professor Lee White CBE, director of the Gabonese National Parks Agency said, “This is an important step towards taking action to protect our precious elephants in Africa. At the Giants Club summit in April, Gabon along with many of our African partners called on Europe to implement a ban on commercial ivory sales. I am delighted to see the UK has listened to us in Africa and has continued to be a key partner, with Gabon, in this fight against the Illegal Wildlife Trade.”

“Old or new ivory and its continued sale around the globe helps to fuel the illegal killing of Forest Elephants in Gabon, as it creates a demand for this commodity,” said White. “We must stop it by encouraging more domestic sales bans, like the UK has introduced.”

tusks

The shapely tusks of an elephant on the grounds of the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy, Sri Lanka before the start of an annual festival, Aug. 7, 2016 (Photo by Denish C)

Charlie Mayhew, Founder and CEO of Tusk Trust said, “The significance of Royal Assent for the Ivory Bill should not be underestimated as we continue our fight to save one of the planet’s most iconic species. Tusk has worked closely with DEFRA and Government Ministers over the last three years to introduce this legislation, for which there has always been overwhelming public support. Whilst recognising the need to include pragmatic exemptions to protect items of important historic, artistic and cultural value, this Bill sends a clear message that there is no place for the use of ivory in the 21st century.

The UK Government has once again taken a lead on tackling the trade and reducing the poaching that has decimated elephant populations over the last three decades. We sincerely hope that this move will now persuade the EU and other countries to follow suit and bolster vital efforts to halt all illegal wildlife trade.

Paul De Ornellas, chief wildlife advisor at WWF, said, “Stopping the brutal trade in ivory is crucial to end trafficking and ensure a future for elephants. The UK government has listened and is showing decisive leadership. Now, we need China, the major destination for illegal ivory in recent years, to resolutely enforce its trade ban. It’s also equally important, for other countries on the Chinese border, to commit to closing their ivory markets.”

John Stephenson, Stop Ivory CEO said, “We welcome the new Ivory Act. It represents an important milestone in the eradication of the ivory trade, a trade responsible for the poaching that threatens the very survival of elephants as a species. The new law is exactly what African governments on the front line of the poaching crisis have been calling for.”

The 19 African countries that form the Elephant Protection Initiative see this law as a breakthrough in their struggle to save their elephants,” said Stephenson.

“We urge those remaining governments which continue to allow the ivory trade, including the EU, to follow the UK’s leadership and hasten the day when ivory is no longer valued as a commodity. When the buying stops, the killing will stop,” he said.

Over the past two years, Stop Ivory and a Coalition of leading conservation NGOs, including Tusk Trust and the Environmental Investigation Agency, have worked to urge the UK Government to implement a near total ban on ivory sales. Through a unified social media campaign, Stop Ivory and its partners played a major role in generating one of the largest-ever responses to a government consultation, overwhelmingly in favor of the ban.

There were more than 70,000 responses to the consultation, with over 88 percent of responses in favor of the ban.

David Cowdrey, head of policy and campaigns at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, said, “The UK ivory ban is a momentous victory for elephant conservation. With populations being decimated by the poaching crisis at the rate of one elephant slaughtered every 26 minutes, it is vital that we close down ivory markets.”

“The British public are strongly rejecting ivory ownership in favor of elephant protection and we are delighted that the UK Government has succeeded in putting in place one of the toughest ivory bans in the world,” said Cowdrey. “We hope that others will follow their lead so that in future, ivory is only valued on a live elephant.”

Matt Walpole, director of conservation Programmes at Fauna & Flora International said, “This ban sets a global standard and, by removing opportunities for trade in ivory, sends a clear message that elephants are more valuable alive. Poaching for trade in ivory is the greatest threat to elephants today. Other countries with legal ivory markets must now follow suit so that elephants will be one step closer to a brighter future.”

From New York, Dr. Susan Lieberman, Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS, vice president for international policy, had this to say, “We congratulate the UK on showing the world its commitment to stopping the illegal ivory trade – not by telling others what to do, but by taking action at home.”

The UK now joins the United States, China, and other countries in heeding the call from the majority of African elephant range countries to putting an end, for good, to the global ivory trade. We call on the EU, Japan, and others that still allow domestic ivory sales, to close their markets as well. Any open ivory market provides opportunities to launder illegal ivory.

“We know from our conservationists working on the front lines throughout Africa, and on anti-trafficking efforts across the globe,” said Lieberman, “that the slaughter of elephants will continue as long as there are open ivory markets.”

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