Introduction of ivory bill boosts fight against elephant poaching

Today, the Government will introduce a Bill to ban ivory sales, as part of our commitment to strengthen protections for animal welfare. Elephants are one of the world’s most iconic animals and we must do all that we can to protect them for future generations.

The introduction of this Bill means that robust measures set out last month by Environment Secretary Michael Gove are a step closer to becoming law, and helping to protect elephants for future generations.

The Bill covers ivory items of all ages, not only those produced after a certain date, subject to some narrow, carefully-defined exemptions. The maximum penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

The Bill follows widespread engagement with environmental groups and the antiques trade sector as well as the general public. More than 70,000 people and organisations responded to Defra’s consultation on an ivory ban late last year, with over 88% of responses in favour of measures to ban ivory sales in the UK.

The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered because of the global demand for ivory. The UK Government continues to show global leadership in this area and in October will play host to leaders from across the globe at the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade.

As announced in April’s consultation response, the Bill provides for narrowly-defined and carefully-targeted exemptions for items which do not contribute directly or indirectly to the poaching of elephants:

  • Items with only a small amount of ivory. Such items must be comprised of less than 10% ivory by volume and have been made prior to 1947

  • Musical instruments. These must have an ivory content of less than 20% and have been made prior to 1975

  • The rarest and most important items of their type. Items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historic significance, and made prior to 1918 Such items will be assessed by specialists at institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums

  • Sales to and between accredited museums. This applies museums accredited by Arts Council Englandthe Welsh GovernmentMuseums and Galleries Scotland or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or the International Council of Museums outside the UK

  • Portrait miniatures. A specific exemption for portrait miniatures – which were often painted on thin slivers of ivory – made before 1918

The combination of the UK’s ban on ivory items of all ages with these exemptions delivers one of the toughest ivory bans in the world. The US federal ban has a rolling exemption for items over 100 years, as well as items with up to 50% ivory content. China’s ban exempts ivory “relics”, but this term is not clearly defined.

As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organised enterprise, estimated to be worth up to £17billion a year.

In October, the UK will show global leadership in this fight when it hosts the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade. The event will bring 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.

You can read more about this fantastic announcement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/introduction-of-ivory-bill-boosts-fight-against-elephant-poaching