Almost all ivory trade could be banned by the UK government in a bid to combat elephant poaching.
Conservationists have warned that the legal ivory market is a cover for selling poached elephant tusks, and many have warned that elephants could become extinct within decades in some African countries if the rates of poaching continue.
It’s a victory for Prince William, who has long campaigned against the ivory trade.
On Thursday, Oct. 5, the Duke sent a message to the Tusk conservation awards in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I worry a great deal that our generation is not meeting our moral obligation to leave this planet in better shape than we inherited it. Our children and grandchildren will not thank us if we fail in our duty to reverse the decline in so many species,” he said.
Under current rules, carved ivory items made before 1947 can be sold in the UK, while raw ivory is banned. The new ban would cover all ivory items no matter when they were produced.
There are four exemptions proposed to the total ban: musical instruments; items only containing a small amount of ivory; items of significant historic, artistic, or cultural value; and sales between museums.
The proposed UK ban on ivory is subject to a 12-week public consultation that closes on Dec. 29.
“The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove in a statement announcing the plans.
Tusk says at least 20,000 elephants are slaughtered every year due to the demand for their tusks, while other organizations put the number at closer to 30,000 a year.
“The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation,” said Gove.”Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol—so we want to ban its sale.”
John Stephenson, chief executive of UK-based NGO Stop Ivory, welcomed the move.
“By starting the process to bring in a total ban on ivory sales in the UK, the government continues to work with the African countries leading the Elephant Protection Initiative to secure a meaningful future for elephants across Africa,” he said.
But Noelle McElhatton, editor at the Antiques Trade Gazette, was not so sure.
She told the BBC that those involved in the trade abhor poaching, but said that a ban on trade in items made before 1947 “will not save a single living elephant.”
“We feel strongly that an outright ban would be an overreaction and would be very detrimental to the honest and legitimate trade of pre-1947 ivory,” she said.