UK moves forward on a total ivory ban!

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Hearing today that the UK government is launching a consultation to ban ivory is brilliant news.

IFAW and our peers have been campaigning for a ban for number of years, and to see a proposal for a total ban (with a few limited exemptions) that will close the UK market down once and for all is a great success!

Today, elephants are being killed faster than they are being born. This ban will send a clear message around the world that the UK wants no part of this trade, and encourage further countries to close their ivory markets. As Environment Minister Michael Gove said last night, the slaughter of elephants “shames our generation."

Environment Secretary has proposed a ban on ivory sales to help bring an end to elephant poaching

— Defra UK (@DefraGovUK)

The UK has a legal ivory trade in antiques, which are often sold overseas and ultimately help fuel a demand for ivory products. This legal trade has also provided a cover for the illegal trade. 

This global market demand resulted in more than 100,000 elephants killed over a three year period. Some countries have seen elephant populations decline by more than 60 percent in just seven years, according to the Great Elephant Census.

So today's announcement is great news for elephants. While there do need to be a few, very specific exemptions covering areas such as musical instruments and museum pieces, we must make sure that these protections for culturally significant items do not create a loophole. This new legislation must be enforceable and work for police officers and Border Force operatives. 

This progress comes on the back of concerted efforts, both from compassionate members of the public and behind-the-scenes lobbying work. In the past year or so, we’ve seen two Parliamentary debates on ivory, and IFAW has held two receptions for MPs and attended hundreds of one-to-one meetings with politicians to bring them on board. More than 100,000 people signed a government e-petition calling for a ban, and thousands of our supporters have contacted decision-makers about the issue. Of course, many other NGOs and conservation organisations have been part of the campaign as well.

The ban should stop ivory being bought and sold, but will not require existing ivory to be destroyed. However, our IFAW UK office is currently offering the chance to send us any ivory that residents would like to dispose of as part of our Big Ivory Surrender project.

Important now is for the government to act quickly. IFAW conducted a survey of MPs and found that 97 percent were in favor of a ban. There is real momentum, and with the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference due to take place in London in 2018, there is a huge opportunity to get legislation in place.

So what happens next? The UK is running a consultation for three months, and it’s key that as many people as possible respond to this consultation to support a total ban. We’ll share more information about how you can take part very soon.

Congratulations to the UK government for moving forward with a long-standing promise to tackle the ivory trade. We hope this becomes law as soon as possible to help save elephants in the wild. A huge thank you to everyone who has been a part of this campaign so far; your actions have helped make this happen!

About David Cowdrey

David joined IFAW UK in 2016 and manages the Policy & Campaigns team, promoting and advocating IFAW’s international and domestic campaigns covering illegal wildlife trade, the Convention

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