The UK is to introduce a ban on ivory sales, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed, setting out a plan to help protect elephants for future generations. The ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date, and the maximum penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.
The new robust measures that will be brought into force through primary legislation aim to tackle poaching and the illegal ivory trade.
The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory. As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organised enterprise, estimated to be worth up to £17 billion a year.
By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting only narrow exemptions (typically items that comprise only a small amount of ivory, such as musical instruments, and items of great rarity and importance), the UK’s ban will be one of the toughest in the world.
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.
“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.”
At a recent European Environment Council, the UK called for EU member states to follow the UK’s lead and ban commercial trade in raw ivory within the EU as soon as possible.
In October, the UK will also host the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade. This follows the ground breaking London 2014 conference on the illegal wildlife trade, and subsequent conferences in Botswana and Vietnam.