Victory! The Ivory Trade Ban Is Finally Put Into Effect In The UK After Long-Fought Campaign To Protect Endangered Elephants

Wildlife campaigners rejoiced this week as the long-awaited ban on the ivory trade finally came into force in the United Kingdom on Monday.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) welcomed the announcement that it is now illegal to trade in ivory items in the UK, except for very limited exemptions. Those who break the law face prosecution and a fine of up to £250,000 (approx. $313,000 USD) or up to five years in prison.

IFAW and other conservation groups have campaigned tirelessly for many years for an ivory trade ban to protect threatened elephant populations from further slaughter for their tusks. After the Ivory Act was passed in December 2018, there were another three-and-a-half years of delays before the Act came into force.

“Today is a good day for elephants. IFAW campaigned long and hard for the ivory ban to be passed so that the UK could play no further part in the bloody ivory trade,“ said James Sawyer, IFAW’s UK Director. “After welcoming the passing of this vital piece of legislation in 2018, we and the many others who want to see elephants safeguarded for future generations were frustrated by the delays to it coming into force.”

“With as many as 20,000 elephants a year poached for ivory trinkets that nobody needs, this ban could not have come a moment too soon. It is now vital that the ban is effectively enforced and that those who attempt to circumvent it face the full force of the law,” said Sawyer. “This was promised as world-leading legislation and must be shown to be so, but this is a day to celebrate for elephant conservation and we hope it will also inspire other countries to close their own domestic ivory markets.”

Prior to the Ivory Act being passed, IFAW had encouraged members of the public to surrender their unwanted ivory items so they could be handed over to a government agency for safe disposal, to prevent them from re-entering the marketplace. Thousands of items were handed over, from whole tusks to carvings, figurines, and walking sticks.

IFAW is encouraging the UK Government to put in place its own disposal system so that post-ban items can continue to be securely surrendered.

Sawyer added, “IFAW believes ivory should only be valued on a live elephant and the overwhelming public support for banning the trade shows the majority of people feel the same. Legal ivory markets have long provided a smokescreen for illegal trade, putting endangered elephants in further jeopardy. Ivory trading in the UK has now rightly been consigned to the history books and everyone who has played a part in this important conservation victory should be proud.”

Elephants are intelligent and social animals that also play an important role in the ecosystem, and even help combat climate change by enabling greater carbon capture in the landscapes they inhabit. They are often referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’ as they help modify landscape as they feed and move through it, creating new clearings and space for other species to grow and thrive, as well as dispersing seeds.

To protect elephants and the communities who live alongside them, IFAW endeavors to secure land for safe pathways, providing elephants with room to roam.

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