Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) congratulates the British government on its plan to close – with some limited exemptions – its domestic Ivory markets.
It is understood that ivory (whether raw or worked) continues to be traded legally within UK and the other EU Member States, in auction houses, markets, shops and online – and that antique items can even be traded without permits or certificates.
The existence of legal ivory markets and exports provide opportunities for laundering illegal ivory.
The existence of these markets and exports also fuel demand for ivory within the UK and abroad and thus contribute to poaching.
KWS and Kenya welcome the plan by UK to close its ivory markets as this will obliterate any chances for opportunists, who may have in the past used the existing market in antique ivory as a cover for trade in illegal ivory.
Speaking at the start of January the UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, “The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation. The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol – so we want to ban its sale. These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory.”
Effective January 1, 2018, China banned the mainland domestic sale of elephant ivory and related products, a significant move toward slowing the annual slaughter of the largest land animals on Earth. The UK’s plan to follow suit could not have come at a better time.
KWS and Kenya recognize this bold step as the equivalent of climbing several rungs up the ladder in the war against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, pulling especially the African elephant further away from the precipice of extinction.
The significance of support from such an influential quarter can be measured in the multiple effects seen in the results on the ground.
An example is the global effort focusing on elephant conservation between 2014 to date, targeting ivory source countries, transit and consumer countries, which has led to remarkable reduction in elephant poaching in the source countries and ivory demand in the consumer countries.
Further the measures agreed to by States on implementation of National Ivory Action Plan process under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to combat elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade are yielding positive results.
CITES Parties including the UK, agreed by consensus at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, (CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in October 2016, that, legal domestic ivory markets contributing to poaching or illegal trade should be closed as a matter of urgency.
This breakthrough agreement has meanwhile been endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. It is encouraging to note that UK is committed and in the path of implementation of this important agreement.
Writing in the Times at the end of 2017, the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson said, “My aim is to make 2018 the year of British leadership in defeating the ivory trade. Ivory poaching is an abhorrent crime and it is shocking that in the twenty first century we are still witnessing the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants every year for their tusks. It is mankind’s privilege to share the planet with these wonderful creatures but their treatment is heartbreaking. We are committed to tackling this problem and are playing a key role in building global consensus to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade. Our plans to ban the sale of all ivory products in the UK will remove opportunities for criminals to trade illegally-poached ivory, helping to protect this majestic and endangered species.”
The plan to ban ivory sales in the UK and towards implementing the CITES recommendation to close domestic ivory markets is a welcome shot in the arm for Kenya and other elephant range States’ continued conservation efforts, because the demand for ivory is bound to plummet and therefore, a drastic decline in poaching is expected.
KWS and Kenya stand ready to partner closely with the British government, as well as other conservation partners, in all further endeavours to fight elephant poaching, ivory trade and wildlife crime.