The environment secretary Michael Gove has confirmed the UK will introduce a ban on ivory sales, as he set out plans to help protect elephants for future generations.
Through ‘robust measures that will be brought into force through primary legislation’, the ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.
The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade, and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory.
‘one of the world’s toughest bans’
Michael Gove said that ‘ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations.’
Gove added that the ban on ivory sales ‘will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.’
In line with the approach taken by other countries, including the United States and China, there will be certain narrowly defined and carefully targeted exemptions for items which do not contribute to the poaching of elephants.
The exemptions have been tightened since the government published its proposals for consultation, but have been designed to ‘provide balance to ensure people are not unfairly impacted’.
Exemptions from ivory ban
Items with only a small amount of ivory in them; they must comprise less than 10% ivory by volume and have been made prior to 1947
Musical instruments with an ivory content of less than 20% that were made prior to 1975 (when Asian elephants were added to CITES)
‘Rarest and most important items of their type’, which must be at least 100 years old. Their rarity and importance will be assessed by specialist institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums before exemption permits are issued. In addition, there will be a specific exemption for portrait miniatures painted on thin slivers of ivory, which are at least 100 years old.
Commercial activities to, and between, museums that are accredited by Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, Museums and Galleries Scotland or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or the International Council of Museums for museums outside the UK.