A near-total British ban on ivory trade has come into effect in a “major conservation victory” for the world’s elephants.

The import, export and trade of elephant ivory items of all ages, not just items produced after a specific date, is now illegal unless they are registered or have an exemption certificate.

Elephants are frequently at.tacked by their tusks, and demand for ivory is known to contribute to poaching and population decline.

The number of free elephants in the wild has fallen by almost a third, and the population of savannah elephants declined by about 30% between 2007 and 2014 in 15 African countries, the equivalent of 144,000 elephants.

It is estimated that around 20,000 elephants continue to be slaughtered annually due to global demand for ivory.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the ban would ensure vital protection for the world’s elephants by halting British ivory trade and putting Britain “at the forefront of global conservation efforts.”

Those found guilty of violating the ban face penalties such as an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison.

Secretary of Animal Welfare Lord Goldsmith said: “The world’s leading entry into force of the Ivory Act is a milestone in ensuring the survival of elephants around the world for future generations.

“Thousands of elephants are unnecessarily and cruelly at.tacked for their ivory every year for financial gain. As one of the strictest bans of its kind, we are sending a clear message that trade in elephant ivory is totally unacceptable.”

An investigation by the animal welfare organization Born Free, published at the same time as the ban, found 1,832 open and covert areas in the UK alone in a month. Offers with ivory with an estimated value of 1.1 million pounds.

About 85% of the ads openly described ivory products, but 95% of those who wanted to sell ivory in disguise or something else, usually “bone”, appeared on the British platform eBay, which already bans the sale of ivory.

Dr. Mark Jones, director of policy at Born Free, said: “Born Free has long been committed to ending all trade in ivory, so we are pleased to finally welcome the British Ivory Act.

“Implementation must now be robust enough to ensure that, in the future, only items that actually meet the exemption criteria can be traded and that any infringements are dealt with promptly and rigorously.”

James Sawyer, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said: “Today is a good day for elephants. With up to 20,000 elephants poached for ivory a year, this ban couldn’t have come too soon.

“Legal ivory markets have long created smoke protection for illegal trade and put elephants more The ivory trade in the UK has rightly been included in history books and anyone who contributed to this important conservation victory should be proud.”

An eBay spokesman said: “eBay is a founding member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking on the Internet. We have been working to combat illegal trade in elephant ivory for many years and are working with WWF and IFAW to continually update our measures.

“We have global teams committed to meeting our market standards and, over the past two years, we have blocked or removed more than 265,000 listings prohibited under our animal products policy.”

The government launched the digital ivory service earlier this year, which allows ivory owners to register or request an exemption certificate.

Individuals only need to register or certify items for trade in items containing ivory. Those who own their ivory items but don’t want to sell them don’t need to register or certify them. The government is also considering extending the Ivory Act to other species that contain ivory and will publish the response to its query later this year.

 

By Vinh