Unscrupulous ivory merchants can evade new UK ban, charity says | Animal welfare

Ivory peddlers could proceed to promote elephant tusks after a brand new ban by disguising their merchandise as walrus or narwhal derivatives, campaigners have warned.

From Monday, commerce in elephant tooth and tusks is prohibited within the UK, punishable by fines of as much as £250,000 or as much as 5 years in jail below the Ivory Act. Pre-1975 musical devices and vintage objects of “outstanding importance” are exempted from the act, in addition to ivory from non-elephant species.

However Born Free Foundation, a wildlife charity, is asking for the ban to be prolonged to the ivory of different species, saying unscrupulous sellers may in any other case go off elephant merchandise as derivatives from unprotected mammals.


Analysis by the marketing campaign group discovered £1.1m value of ivory-containing merchandise listed on the market on three UK on-line marketplaces in a single month in late 2021. In two-thirds of the 1,832 ivory product listings, it was unimaginable to establish the species due to the restricted quantity and high quality of the pictures offered, the researchers mentioned.

Of the ivory-containing objects the place the species might be recognized, the bulk had been derived from elephants (491 out of 606), with walruses (48), sperm whales (26), hippopotamuses (15), warthogs (12), mammoths (eight) and narwhals (six) additionally featured.

Will Travers OBE, Born Free’s co-founder and govt president, mentioned: “The take-home message from our report is that all ivory trade – from any species – has to end. Just a few weeks ago, wildlife law enforcement officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo intercepted 2,000 kg of ivory, representing an estimated 150 dead elephants.


“Via the online trade, could this have been destined – at least in part – for the UK market?”

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s head of coverage, mentioned: “The government must now ensure that the system they have introduced to prevent the trade in most elephant ivory is sufficiently robust to ensure only items that genuinely meet the exemption criteria can be traded. Our research demonstrates the sheer scale of online trade in ivory in the UK.”


Jones mentioned he was involved that legislation enforcement may discover itself too stretched to police the huge on-line market, permitting fly-by-night sellers an opportunity to go off illicit elephant ivory as one thing else.

The Born Free report, entitled Are Ivory Sellers Mendacity By way of Their Tooth?, uncovered 331 instances in a single month of distributors promoting ivory on eBay UK – regardless of commerce in ivory having been banned on the platform in 2009.


A lot of the ivory merchandise listed on the web site had been disguised with various levels of subtlety, with one advert saying the merchandise was “cold to the touch”, a recognised code phrase, and one other saying that the fabric had come from “an animal with a trunk”.

Generally, distributors listed merchandise as “ivorine” or “faux ivory” on eBay UK, whereas admitting they in reality contained ivory in adverts for a similar merchandise showing on specialist public sale web sites.

There have been 414 particular person distributors of ivory merchandise throughout the UK and Channel Islands recognized over the month-long examine interval, promoting merchandise that included strolling sticks, ornaments, jewelry and a hairbrush.

In addition to eBay, Born Free discovered objects on the market on Barnebys (a preferred auctioneer and vintage seller search engine) and Antiques Atlas (a specialist on-line market).

An eBay spokesperson mentioned: “eBay is a founding member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online. We have been working to tackle the illegal trade in elephant ivory for many years, and work alongside WWF and IFAW to continually update our policies and processes. We have global teams dedicated to enforcing our policies, and over a recent two-year period we blocked or removed over 265,000 listings prohibited under our animal products policy.”

Antiques Atlas has since taken down the related advert. Iain Smith of Antiques Atlas mentioned: “The ivory category and its associated stock has now been removed. We are not a big auction site with big volumes of stock being sold every week. We have had one item uploaded to that category in the last six months.

“Over the last two years we have found most dealers have been reducing their ivory stock and moving away from it … I don’t think I have met a single antique dealer who wasn’t against the illegal ivory trade and the threat it poses to this endangered species.” Smith mentioned he would additionally help an entire ban on the sale of ivory overseas from the UK.

The federal government known as for proof on banning commerce in non-elephant ivory in 2019. Among the many species thought of for defense had been hippos, killer whales, narwhals, sperm whales, walruses, widespread warthogs, desert warthogs and mammoths.

Various respondents to the session objected to extending the ivory ban to non-elephant species, with one saying it could have a massively detrimental impact on musicians who rely on these sources for instrument manufacture and restore.

One other respondent argued that outlawing the commerce in ivory from these species would hurt “small businesses, private collectors, museums, researchers and students of everything from antiquities to ladies’ antique dresses, without preserving threatened animals”.

Peter Goldsmith, the animal welfare minister, mentioned: “The world-leading Ivory Act coming into force represents a landmark moment in securing the survival of elephants across the globe for future generations. Thousands of elephants are unnecessarily and cruelly targeted for their ivory every year for financial gain. As one of the toughest bans of its kind, we are sending a clear message the commercial trade of elephant ivory is totally unacceptable.”

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