POLL: Should the export of “legal ivory” be made illegal?

POLL: Should the export of “legal ivory” be made illegal?

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The United Kingdom ships more legal beyond its borders than any other country, according to an analysis released today by the London-based NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The announcement comes two days before World Day on Saturday. Globally, numbers are falling, down 30 percent between 2007 and 2014 — a decline driven largely by to get a hold of elephants’ valuable tusks.

The U.K. plays a “relatively minor” role in the trade of illegal ivory, said Shruti Suresh, a wildlife campaigner with EIA. But data from the Convention on International Trade in of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) show that, between 2010 and 2015, the U.K. exported more than three-and-a-half times the number of pieces of ivory exported by the U.S., the next largest supplier.

POLL: Should the export of “legal ivory” be made illegal?
An herd is on the move in Etosha National Park in Namibia – Photograph by Des and Jen Bartlett, National Geographic Creative

Through 2013, the U.S. had been a much more prominent player. But regulations by the U.S. government aimed at tackling the national and international trade of ivory slowed the flow to Hong Kong and China to a trickle, down to just 17 items in 2015. The U.K. filled that void, largely with what is referred to as antique ivory that was presumably taken from elephants killed years ago, before Cites began controlling international trade.

“What was even more shocking was the destination of the ivory,” Suresh said in an interview. EIA found that, since 2014, the U.K. has been the top supplier to China and Hong Kong, arguably the biggest markets for ivory, both legal and illegal.

“It is a matter of serious concern that the U.K. continues to foster a big market and that there is ivory being sent to these problem markets in Asia,” Suresh said. Between 2010 and 2015, 70 percent more ivory pieces from the U.K. went there than from the second-ranked country, Italy.

Currently, China allows the sale of legally obtained ivory and products made from it, such as the intricate carvings that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars per piece.

But groups like EIA are concerned that this legal trade masks the illicit that continues to drive the of elephants. Scientists estimate that every 15 minutes, an elephant falls to a poacher’s gun in Africa.

“It’s extremely difficult to identify legal and illegal ivory,” Suresh said. “A number of groups have flagged how the legal permitting system for ivory [in China] is fraught with loopholes,” she added, “and legal and illegal ivory is sold side by side in a number of these stores.”

In response to international pressure, China announced in 2016 that it would ban the legal trade of ivory in 2017. Hong Kong, which Suresh said is a major supplier of illegal ivory to the mainland, has also agreed to outlaw the sale of ivory, although traders there have until 2021 to get rid of their stocks.

The U.K. primarily exports antique ivory, such as this carved tusk from the 11th century. Photo in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
An elephant in . Photo by Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

At a 2016 Cites meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, 182 countries signed on to a resolution to shutter legal markets for ivory. But Britain has yet to address its own role in this global commerce, Suresh said, allowing its legal market to continue.

“We see what the U.K. is doing right now as potentially undermining China’s announcement,” she added.

EIA staff have also voiced concerns about a potential “loophole” in China’s law that would allow the auction of “cultural relics.”

“The antique industry in the U.K.interpreted that policy announcement as allowing them to continue their business with China,” Suresh said.

The worry is that, even in that form, the trade would still pressure elephant populations and the people trying to protect them.

“There is a growing recognition that any demand for ivory stimulates poaching, is a problem for enforcement and stimulates more demand for ivory,” she said.

Leaders in Britain have promised to hold a public consultation about a change in policy on the , but so far EIA and other groups have been waiting at least six months for it to happen.

“This isn’t a new commitment,” Suresh said. “It is now time for the U.K. government to show leadership on this issue and to announce a change in law where ivory can no longer be sold within the U.K.market and ivory cannot be exported [from] the U.K.”

This by John Cannon was first published by on 10 Aug 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether the export of “legal ivory” should be made illegal? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should the export of "legal ivory" be made illegal?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Rajarshi Sengupta
Rajarshi Sengupta

It should have been done much earlier otherwise elephants will be endangered..China is the capital of all these prehistoric nuisances

annette glendenning
annette glendenning

Stop China from smuggling ivory and selling it on the black market. That place is so damn corrupt it makes me sick to know Our country Canada does any business with those savages.

Julie Cox


Sue Mcclelland

All exports must be stopped otherwise the killing will continue

Dana Johnson


Jenny Borus

Looks better on the elephant they deserve to be on this earth

Guillemette Brin


Chris Hernandez


Santu Das

rare pic.

Isabel Silva

first of all export of ivory implies animal cruelty, killing of elephants in a most cruel way, so this poll, in my opinion, is contradicting the end of animal cruelty.

Solem de Guzman


Isabelle Fernandès

L’exportation d’ivoire juridique devrait-elle être rendue illégale?

Oui (93%, 135 Votes)
Non (6%, 9 votes)
Ne sait pas (1%, 1 vote)
Nombre total d’électeurs: 145

Dixie Shelton


DeborahMae Broad

what a stupid question. of course it should.why is it not already illegal??????

Bunni Merk

yes duh!

Bonnie Labrack Buckman

Yes it should!

Maria Anna Mavromichalis

yes!!!!!!!!!! no animal should be killed for sport or for any illegal trade of their body parts!!!!!!! we don’t chop up people why should it be ok to do it to innocent animals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

goldi muencz
goldi muencz

no export of ivory. better burn them. no business with them

Patricia Tucker

Yes!!! They are killing elephants just to get their tusks!!!

Michele Jankelow
Michele Jankelow

Yes! End it! End this trade or the slaughter will never cease!

Wendé Anne Maunder

This makes me feel ashamed to be British. This evil trade must be stopped forthwith.

Andrei Hanches

The rare a species becomes the more valuable it body parts are.This is a golden rule! So rhino horn,ivory,tiger skins and bones and other poached items will encourage the wildlife illegal trade even more if they are exported legally.