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Ivory seizures hit record level as UK prepares to strengthen trade laws to help dwindling elephant population

A herd of elephants pictured in Amboseli National Park, Kenya 

By Polly Robinson

A RECORD 40 tonnes of trafficked ivory was recovered last year, according to a new report released as the UK prepares to introduce tougher rules to protect elephants.

The report from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, published on October 24, said despite the number of ivory seizures hitting a record level, elephant poaching in Africa has declined for the fifth year in a row.

This comes following a number of countries, including the UK, USA, China and Hong Kong, implementing or preparing to close domestic ivory markets.

The UK plans to end all ivory sales and exports in the New Year following a 12-week consultation on proposals put forward by environment secretary Michael Gove.

In a statement released on October 6, 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.”

The trade of raw ivory of any age is already banned, but current rules allow “worked ivory” items produced after March 1947 to be sold with a certificate and there are no restrictions at all on “worked ivory” produced before that date.

Gove’s proposals would strengthen these regulations.


Statistics show around 20,000 African elephants are killed every year for their ivory tusks.

A number of African wildlife trusts are also trying to hep bring an end to poaching.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, based in Kenya, was founded in 1977 with the aim of taking “all measures that compliment the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife,” particularly through hosting their orphans project which has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants.

A spokesperson for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust said: “Every month each unit confiscates countless snares, destroys numerous charcoal kilns and poaching structures, whilst arresting many poachers and wildlife offenders.”

However, there remain to be a number of increasing challenges as smaller volumes of ivory are being brought through countries, such as jewellery and ornaments.

Further issues also arise from the number of rhinos being poached for their horns and sold on to countries in Asia, fuelled by the misguided belief that they possess medical properties.

Due to rhino horn having a street value higher than gold or cocaine, there are ongoing fears that they will become more sought-after than ivory, increasing their value to poachers.


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