UK to introduce one of the world’s toughest punishments for ‘abhorrent’ ivory smugglers

One of the world’s toughest bans on illegal ivory sales will be introduced in the UK.

Apr 4, 2018
By Adam Button

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to punish ivory traffickers with up to five years in jail and an unlimited fine.

A new total ban will also cover ivory products of all ages, not just those produced after a certain date, although certain items such as rare artefacts and museum pieces will be exempt.

The worldwide illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth up to £17 billion per year.

Mr Gove said: “Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations.

“The ban on ivory sales we will bring into law will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.”

Around 20,000 elephants are still being slaughtered every year to fuel the global demand for ivory. The illegal market has contributed to an almost 33 per cent decline in elephant numbers over the last ten years.

The total ban, announced on Tuesday (April 3), is far stricter than measures adopted by most other countries as it will apply retrospectively.

The US exempts all items older than 100 years as well as any product that is less than 50 per cent ivory. Meanwhile, China does not punish dealers in ‘relics’ and has not set a date before which these products must have been produced.

The UK law will not apply to items containing less than ten per cent ivory that were made before 1947. It will also exempt musical instruments with an ivory content below 20 per cent produced before 1975, rare items that are at least 100 years old, and commercial activities between museums.

John Stephenson, chief executive officer of charity Stop Ivory, welcomed the ban as a “significant day for the future of elephants”.

He added: “The end of the ivory trade in the UK removes any hiding place for the trade in illegal ivory, and sends a powerful message to the world that ivory will no longer be valued as a commodity. “Ivory belongs on an elephant and when the buying stops the killing will stop.”

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