- Edgard Garrido/Reuters
LONDON – The UK will introduce a “total ban” on the sale and trade of almost all ivory in an attempt to end elephant poaching, the government has announced.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that his department would be launching a consultation into ending the trade of ivory on Friday, saying he wanted to end the “horrendous” practice of elephant poaching.
There would be a “very limited number of exceptions” to the ban, including musical instruments or items of “genuine artistic significance,” in order to protect the “beautiful, iconic animal” Gove told Sky News.
The UK is currently the biggest exporter of legal ivory in the world, with pieces carved before 1947 or worked on before 1990 with government certificates legally allowed to be sold.
The proposed ban would cut off the trade of ivory all together, likely coming into force in the new year. The government claims they want to help stop 20,000 elephants being poached every year.
Gove claimed that the legal trade helps towards “masking illegal trade,” and said it was “far easier, far more effective” to completely ban it all together.
The government has been pressured into introducing the measure by campaign groups and high profile figures despite the policy not being in the 2017 Conservative general election manifesto.
Individuals including Prince William, Stephen Hawking and former Tory leader William Hague have previously called for the ivory trade to be banned, while Boris Johnson has also pushed for it within the cabinet.
Hague tweeted: “I welcome the Government’s action on closing the domestic ivory market. Strong action by @michaelgove & @DefraGovUK.”
In the consultation announcement, Gove said: “The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation. The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute.
“These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory.”
The elephant conservation charity Tusk welcomed the announcement but tweeted: “Vital UK Govt move swiftly to close its Ivory market following consultation and before it hosts next Illegal Wildlife Trade conference.”
The UK will host a major illegal wildlife conference in 2018, and it would be embarrassing if the ivory trade was still allowed while pressing other countries such as China to combat the illegal trade.
Stop Ivory’s chief executive John Stephenson said: “The unprecedented crisis we face – with Africa’s natural heritage being destroyed and communities put at risk due to poaching by illegal armed gangs – will only stop when people stop buying ivory.
“Along with our partners, we congratulate the Government on this important step and look forward to working with it and our colleagues to ensure the ban is implemented robustly and without delay.”