What you need to know about the ivory trade and the UK

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently discovered not only that the UK is the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, but it exports 370% MORE ivory items than the next highest exporter. But why does it matter when this ivory is legal? Read on to find out what impact this has on the illegal ivory trade around the world and the terrifying number of elephants that are being killed for these trinkets.

What is ivory?

Essentially, ivory comes from an animal’s teeth and in this case, it comes from an elephant’s teeth. An elephant’s tusks, which are made of ivory, are nothing more than enlarged teeth. These magnificent animals are being senselessly killed in their thousands for their teeth!

Isn’t it illegal to buy and sell ivory?

A global ban on the international trade of ivory went into effect in 1989, and in the UK, in general, it is illegal to trade ivory across international borders without the necessary permits or paperwork BUT there are exemptions to this and there are lots of exemptions in terms of trading in ivory within the UK.

What is ‘legal ivory’?

The current law says it’s legal to sell carved or worked antique ivory – in the UK this is currently defined as ivory from before 1947. There are also exceptions when trading items with a government-issued certificate for ivory worked between 1947 and 1990.

Why does it matter if it’s sold when it’s legal?

Between 2010 and 2015, more than 36,000 pieces of legal ivory were exported from the UK. This market in legal ivory increases the risk to elephant populations and local communities. Domestic ivory markets provide cover for illegal trade and reinforce the high value of ivory – threatening the survival of these wonderful animals. They also feed into illegal markets in other countries and often fuel the demand for ivory items in general.

Where is legal ivory sold in the UK?

In 2016, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, carried out a rapid survey and found more than 5,000 ivory pieces for sale in shops around London and on six online marketplaces. Over half of these items were ivory figures, however household goods, jewellery and personal items were also unearthed.

Is illegal ivory trade happening in the UK?

Unfortunately, yes. Between 2009 and 2014, the UK Border Force seized more than 1,000 illegal ivory products entering the country. It looks like the UK plays a significant role in illegal ivory trade, both importing and exporting items.

And the most important question… How do we stop elephants being killed for their ivory?

A huge amount of work is still needed to protect these giants. As well as anti-poaching work on the ground, the trafficking of ivory must be stopped and the demand reduced. One key step would be to close domestic ivory markets across the world. And this is already happening… two of the largest markets for ivory, China and Hong Kong, are working to close their domestic markets by the end of 2017.

Here in the UK, we are fully supporting the consultation on the ban of ivory trade recently announced by the government. But, we need your help to make it official! Write to the UK Government urging them to ban all sales of ivory.

The time has come to put an end to ivory trade once and for all and save the amazing elephant.