Home News UK Ivory Act finally comes into force 

UK Ivory Act finally comes into force 

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Every year, tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered for their ivory at a brutal and unsustainable rate, driving the species towards extinction. The only solution to mitigate the crisis is a comprehensive ban on the ivory trade and today, we are pleased to finally welcome the implementation of the UK Ivory Act.

What’s included in the ban and what are the implications?

From today, Monday 6th June 2022, it is illegal to deal in items made of, or containing, elephant ivory, regardless of their age. This is unless they are registered as exempt or certified as exempt within five narrow and carefully defined exemptions (portrait miniatures, musical instruments, items with low ivory content, sales to qualifying museums and rare / important items). 

Penalties for dealing in ivory now include fines of up to £250,000 or up to five years’ imprisonment.

Why is this significant?

Elephants are a keystone species that play a critical role in different ecosystems, whilst also mitigating climate change through their role as ‘environmental engineers’.

Image credit: Matt Armstrong-Ford
Image credit: Russel MacLaughlin

In 2017, the Great African Elephant Census revealed huge declines in savanna elephant populations with an estimated 144,000 elephants killed across 15 African countries between 2007-2014 alone. 

In the same year, it was revealed that the UK was the world’s leading exporter of antique ivory, particularly to China and Hong Kong – two trade hotspots for illegal ivory. 

By adding its name to the ever-increasing list of countries outlawing the ivory trade, the UK recognises that legal ivory markets stimulate demand for ivory, leading to increased poaching and ivory trafficking. 

What about beyond the UK?

In 2015, the majority of African elephant range states urgently called for the closure of all domestic ivory markets worldwide. This was closely followed by an international resolution under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) calling for countries to close remaining domestic ivory markets.

It has been remarkable to see how many countries heeded this call. For example, China, which once harboured the world’s largest legal ivory market, closed its domestic market in 2017, followed by Singapore in 2021 as have numerous African countries. The EU too has followed suit, adopting new regulations in late 2021.

Looking ahead

Despite these significant milestones and achievements, we caution against complacency. As we look forward towards the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of CITES in November 2022 (CoP19), all eyes will be on the UK to continue showcasing leadership in the conservation of elephants, beyond its own ivory ban.

We would encourage the UK to use the implementation of its ivory ban to speak out against renewed efforts of a handful of Southern African countries to reopen ivory trade at CoP19. 

Similarly, we urge Japan – the largest remaining legal market for ivory since China closed its market – to join the UK and the long list of countries committed to biodiversity conservation to adopt similarly tough measures and to close its ivory market.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is one of 14 organisations who have signed a statement on the UK ivory ban.

Learn more about DSWF’s position on the international and domestic trade of ivory here. You can also donate today to help put a stop to this brutal trade.

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