Friday, 9 September 2016

Tories’ failure to halt ivory trade ‘risks extinction of elephants’

Campaigners attack broken election pledge to shut down domestic market

Saturday 27 August 201614.08 BSTLast modified on Thursday 1 September 201612.06 BST

The UK is putting elephants at risk of extinction through its broken promises on the ivory trade, according to campaigners. Before the last election, the Conservative party pledged to shut down the UK’s domestic ivory market: at the time 30,000 elephants a year were being slaughtered for their tusks. But no action has been taken.

While bans on the international trade in ivory exist, a failure to observe similar measures at a national level is being exploited by criminal gangs who smuggle ivory into the UK, where it can be passed off as antique. Now, in the run-up to a major conference, more than 1.6 million people have signed a petition on the Avaaz activist website calling for the world’s domestic ivory markets to be closed down for good.

“The government’s broken promises to ban ivory sales in Britain are being paid for in the blood of African elephants,” said Avaaz campaign director Bert Wander. “As one of the world’s most vocal advocates against the illegal wildlife trade, the UK must now practise what it preaches. Otherwise, China and other ivory hotspots will see no reason to put in place the permanent ban on ivory we need to stop elephants being wiped from the face of the Earth.”

Avaaz hopes the petition will put pressure on politicians, wildlife experts and conservation groups attending next month’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Johannesburg, where they will consider a range of measures to protect endangered species.

“The existence of these domestic markets definitely has had a negative impact on African elephant populations,” said Susan Lieberman, vice-president of international policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Simply put, if it were illegal to sell ivory – whether in China, Japan, the US, or the UK – there would be far less incentive for traffickers and organised criminal syndicates to traffic ivory, making it much harder for them to launder illegal ivory, and giving far less incentive to poachers.”

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