Ivory Outlawed

UK Banning Both Legal and Illegal Trade




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The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in the process of implementing a near-total ivory ban. It can’t happen soon enough because elephant populations continue to dramatically decline. As recognized by the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species last September, “Countries with domestic ivory markets that contribute to elephant poaching or the illegal ivory trade should take all necessary legislative, regulatory and enforcement measures to close such markets as a matter of urgency.”

Any legal ivory market leads to a parallel illegal market because ivory from recently killed elephants can be made to look like old ivory, which is legal in many countries, through processes like chipping, staining and cracking.

The UK has long played a role in the international ivory trade. During the colonial era, more than a million elephants were killed to feed British demand for everything from ivory ornaments and piano keys to billiard balls and cutlery. Much of that material remains in the UK today, fueling the market. Trade data indicates that the UK is still the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, most of which goes to Asian destinations like China and Hong Kong.


This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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