Will of the people sees UK Government announce ivory ban

Published on the 3rd of April, 2018

For elephants, the UK Government’s ban on ivory trade has been a long time coming, and despite the media furore, it is not quite here yet – we still await a date for it to become law

For elephants, the UK Government’s ban on ivory trade has been a long time coming, and despite the media furore, it is not quite here yet – we still await a date for it to become law. That being said, The DSWT wholeheartedly welcomes today’s announcement from the Environment Secretary Michael Gove that the UK will introduce a ban on ivory sales. 

In officially responding to the public consultation on a UK ivory sales ban, which was completed in December 2017, the Government has confirmed tough measures that will be brought into force to protect elephants. The ban will cover the sale of all ivory items in the UK, irrespective of their age, with a small number of expected exemptions. The maximum penalty available for breaching the ban will be up to five years in jail or an unlimited fine.

The consultation drew over 70,000 responses and critically over 88% of responses were in favour of the ban. In today’s announcement, Environment Secretary, Michael 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.’

There are exemptions, but what is clear is that once implemented, the UK laws on ivory trade will be among the toughest in the world and follow bans by other nations including the USA and China.

20,000 elephants continue to be killed every year for their ivory, and according to the Great Elephant Census the population of African elephants declined by almost a third in the last decade, to just over 400,000 individuals today!  This ban will further diminish the ability of criminal syndicates who exploit legal markets to trade illegally in ivory from poached elephants. The illegal wildlife trade is global and so requires a global response and the same pressure we have seen come to bear fruit in the UK must be applied to other nations and unions, noticeably, at this time, the European Union, which itself has just completed its own consultation on whether to further restrict trade in ivory – we await the outcome and response! 

Angela Sheldrick, Chief Executive of The DSWT, said ‘Here in Africa we are witness to the brutality that is the ivory trade, both in the traumatised orphans we have rescued who saw their mother’s killed for their tusks, to the wounded elephants treated by the DSWT/KWS Mobile Veterinary Teams, targeted with poison arrows and snares intended to kill them.

So we are hugely encouraged by the news that the UK Government will finally be following the examples set by the USA and recently China, in implementing stricter laws around the sale of ivory, and we commend them on taking what at this stage appear to be some of the toughest regulations we have seen presented by any country in the world.

We commend the Government on this announcement, but more so, we applaud the members of the public that have pressed so hard, for so many years to seek a ban in the UK. We urged our supporters and the wider public, as did other NGOs, to respond to the Government’s consultation and they did so in their tens of thousands and overwhelming in favour of a ban, so it is to those individuals and organisations who made their voices heard that we give thanks, their actions have helped elephants and there are few greater causes than theirs.

We stand firm to our belief that the only place for ivory is on an elephant and these majestic, intelligent and critically important animals should not live in fear of having tusks, not least as they have enough others problems to contend with due to a lack of space and increased conflict as human populations continue to expand.’

Read the UK Government’s official announcement