Home News CITES DSWF advocates toughest possible UK ban on Ivory

DSWF advocates toughest possible UK ban on Ivory

Following various missives encouraging our supporters to ‘take action’ in response to DEFRA’s consultation letter of 6 October 2017 about the UK ban on the sales of ivory and in the run-up to our participation in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 69th Standing Committee meeting, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) has today issued an official response:-

The Foundation welcomes the Government’s proposals to ban ivory sales since elephants have been slaughtered in huge numbers to supply the ivory trade for the best part of two centuries and the extent of poaching and smuggling are still at unacceptably high levels (as shown by the most recent, detailed evidence submitted to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on 24 October 2017). DSWF therefore supports the Minister’s commitment that the UK should act to conserve elephants and his statement that “ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.”

“We believe that the new rules to achieve this should be clear, enforceable on the ground and beyond serious legal challenge”, said Karen Botha, DSWF Chief Executive. “Exemptions should be kept to the absolute minimum. Commerce in old and modern ivory maintains consumer demand for this product in today’s markets worldwide, and thus endangers elephants in the wild.”

A wide international consensus exists, confirmed at last year’s CITES conference, that significant domestic ivory markets need to be closed urgently. Other Governments have already taken action to close or heavily restrict major ivory markets in China, US, Hong Kong and France. The European Commission have opened their own consultation on further ivory trade measures. Europe is the largest global exporter of ivory, and within the EU Britain accounted for more than half of all exports in the period 2006-2015. One of the main reasons for this is the amount of ivory we imported in the past. So-called ‘antique’ ivory is freely traded in UK markets without any proof of source, which not only fuels demand but can also mask trade in ivory obtained from current poaching.

DSWF therefore maintains that it is vital that the UK Government, which has traditionally been at the forefront of international efforts to protect elephants and other endangered wildlife, joins those countries which are bringing the ivory trade to its overdue end. Action within the UK sends a clear signal around the world, and will help to deter the re-emergence of ivory markets in other countries, including South East Asia and Japan where there have been recent, worrying reports. “We also look forward to working with the UK delegation at the CITES Standing Committee meeting next week in Geneva, which will be looking at how we can strengthen efforts against ivory smuggling and other forms of wildlife crime. We trust the UK will be able to support the documents submitted by African elephant range states on the closure of domestic ivory markets and on ivory stockpiles,” said Karen. They also welcome the UK’s offer to host another conference on tackling the illegal wildlife trade at Lancaster House in October 2018, and hope to participate.

“We would take as a starting point the statement in the consultation document that only the ‘rarest and most important’ ivory of historic, cultural or artistic value should qualify for any exemption”, added Rob Hepworth, a former chair of the CITES standing committee and DSWF adviser. “The vast majority of ivory items and transactions must be covered by the ban to avoid a slippery slope back towards the current position where all allegedly pre-1947 ivory can be sold very easily within Britain and beyond to the EU. It will be argued by the traders that a specific sale cannot be linked to current elephant poaching. Yet when each commercial transaction in ivory is combined, the effect is to keep ivory of all types and ages as a desirable product, increasing the appetite to purchase it, especially amongst increasingly affluent regional consumers in Asia and elsewhere. The cumulative effect as we have seen in recent years is to increase the global demand for ivory to unsustainable levels, which directly encourages poaching and smuggling of new ivory from elephants in Africa and Asia.”

“For this reason” confirms Karen, “We are strongly opposed to any exemption specifically on the grounds of artistic, cultural and historic value, as we believe this will be difficult to implement or enforce, and open to gradual weakening over time. Instead we would propose that only Accredited museums (including art galleries with such Accreditation) should be given a right to purchase outstanding artefacts made mainly or wholly from ivory, as a last resort if they cannot acquire them by other means such as donation or loan. We are resolutely opposed to any general sale exemption for solid or mainly ivory items for private commercial purposes, irrespective of the age or nature of the ivory artefacts. ”

DSWF has strong connections to the world of art. Our late founder, David Shepherd CBE FRSA who passed away in September this year was a talented and successful professional artist who established the Foundation as a means to protect the elephants and other endangered animals he painted so distinctively. “Many of our prominent supporters are from the world of arts and we believe – as we know David himself believed – that the majority of artists, galleries, traders and owners of art will want to join the rest of the community in putting elephants first”, said Karen. “Accepting this will mean an end to ivory products having a commercial value, or being available on the open market. We need to remember in this context that all antique ivory artefacts were made in an era when there was uncontrolled exploitation of elephants throughout Africa and Asia. Over 99% of elephants have already perished to feed human greed, including the ivory trade, and it is wholly justifiable and ethical that art and antique traders, connoisseurs and consumers share in the overdue sacrifices now needed to make sure that these iconic species survive.”

The consultation period is open until 29th December 2017. DSWF are calling for all readers and supporters to make their voice heard by visiting the DEFRA site and actively participating. You can do that HERE.  For more information please visit  www.banukivorysales.co.uk and forward as soon as possible to as many like-minded friends!  


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