Elephant slaughter: Shock report shows THOUSANDS of ivory products on sale in Britain
Britain is responsible for over 30% of the European illegal ivory trade
An estimated 30,000 tonnes of ivory were shipped out of Africa to the United Kingdom during an age when the sun never set on the British empire.
Almost a century on and Britain is still a hub for ivory sales with fears that it is also a major hub for the the illegal trade as a “transit country”.
Figures show the UK is also a bona fide re-exporter of legal ivory for commercial purposes with 54,000 pieces traded between 2005 and 2015 – 31 per cent of the EU total.
Thousands of ivory products are still on sale across antique markets and shops
With elephant conservation and ivory trade expected to be a major issue at next month’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species summit in South Africa, a leading wildlife trade organisation has produced a report on Britain’s role in the ivory market.
At least 1.1 million elephants became household products
The report has been compiled by TRAFFIC and has several major findings.
• Although the antiques ivory market in the UK appears to have declined significantly there are still thousands of ivory items on sale in London’s markets
Over a million elephants were killed by Britain between the 19th and 20th century
• A wide range of ivory was on sale in 13 antique markets and two shops, with 3,200 items made up of figures (56 per cent); household goods (27 per cent); jewellery ( 9 per cent) and personal items (8 per cent)
• The study found evidence of “potential irregularity” with the UK’s reported exports of 17 raw tusks contrasting with importers’ records showing 109 tusks originating from the UK
• Seizure figures “show that the UK plays a role in illegal ivory trade…in particular as a transit country, with ivory seizures…having increased in recent years”
Today there were calls for Britain to take a lead in regulating the global ivory trade.
Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory trade expert, said: “The foundations of UK’s antique ivory trade are embedded in Pax Britannica, which brought no peace for elephants.
“An estimated 30,000 tonnes of ivory moved out of Africa into the UK between 1860–1920 and the tusks from at least 1.1 million elephants became household products for a rapidly expanding middle class.
“Every country, even those whose days of large scale ivory demand have long since passed, has a role to play in helping regulate the global ivory trade: the UK is no exception and needs to show strong leadership on the international stage.”
The global ivory trade was banned in 1989, although “antique” worked or carved ivory acquired before March 1947 can still be traded under certain circumstances.
The ban on ivory trade came into effect in 1989
Yet the TRAFFIC report – A rapid survey of UK ivory markets – found “mixed understanding” among British traders of what constitutes legal sales.
Researchers say although traders were aware of the cut-off date for antique ivory and the strict rules concerning importation into countries such as the USA, some were far less knowledgeable, and some even suggested transporting ivory items in luggage or post without documentation.
Few dealers were able to provide proof of age or documentation to prove legal acquisition of their ivory for sale, it adds.
TRAFFIC’s Vicki Crook, one of the study’s authors, said: “Lack of awareness and/or clarity over the UK’s and destination country regulations on ivory trade and the specifics surrounding the CITES antiques (pre-1947) derogation, appear to play a major role in the confusion.
lllegal elephant tusks across the world are being systematically destroyed by governments
“We urge the UK Government to compile simple guidance on applicable legislation both in the UK and destination countries and to share best practice guidelines on commercial antique ivory use with appropriate stakeholders.”
The TRAFFIC report highlights how traders blame the emergence of online sales as one of the key reasons for the decline in physical market sales.
Among TRAFFIC’s recommendations are examining the feasibility of making declarations regarding the age and acquisition of ivory items mandatory; targeting postal and courier shipments to East Asia and a systematic monitoring of the online retail market.