‘Fantastic day for elephants’: court rejects ivory ban challenge

Antique dealers fail in high court bid to overturn world-leading blanket ban on

Owen Bowcott
Tue 5 Nov 2019 17.45 GMT First published on Tue 5 Nov 2019 15.17 GMT

Antique dealers have failed in an attempt to overturn a total ban on ivory
trading being introduced by the government after the high court ruled the
legislation did not breach European law.

Conservation groups, who argued that any dilution of the ban would
revitalise illegal elephant poaching, welcomed the decision, which they said
would preserve the UK’s position as a world leader in the fight against the
ivory trade.

Last month, a small number of antique dealers challenged the ban in the high
court, arguing that sales of “cultural heritage” objects had no impact on
the market for illegally plundered tusks.

The 2018 Ivory Act, which attracted cross-party support, has yet to come
into force. It criminalises trade in all ivory artefacts with a few artistic
exemptions. The prohibition was championed by the former environment
secretary Michael Gove, who pledged to introduce “one of the world’s
toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations”.

The high court claim was brought in the name of a newly formed company,
Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (Fact), but funds were channelled via
the British Antique Dealers’ Association (Bada). The dealers also said the
ban undermined the European convention on human rights by interfering with
individuals’ property rights.

Responding to the judgment, Mary Rice, the chief executive of the
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said: “This is a victory for
common sense and one which maintains the UK’s position as a global leader
when it comes to fighting the illegal ivory trade.”

The EIA is part of a coalition of 11 conservation organisations that
supported the Ivory Act, arguing that any legal trade in ivory provides
cover for the illegal trade because it is difficult to distinguish between
antique and newly carved ivory. The UK is one of the world’s leading
exporters of antique ivory, particularly to China and Hong Kong.

The environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, said: “I welcome today’s ruling
by the high court which upholds the UK’s commitment to ban the ivory trade.

“We will move forward and make sure the ban comes into operation as soon as
possible to protect wildlife and the environment.”

The European commission is considering further restrictions on ivory trade
across the EU, based in part on the UK’s Ivory Act. Other countries, such as
Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, have introduced, or are considering,
similar legislation.

John Stephenson, the chief executive of the campaign group Stop Ivory, said:
“Challenges to the new legislation fly in the face of British public
opinion, which increasingly puts the conservation of nature before profit.
We hope that’s the end of the matter and that the government can get on with
implementing the act, without further distractions.”

Conservationists estimate that 55 African elephants are poached every day,
which they say is an unsustainable rate of loss. David Cowdrey, the head of
policy and campaigns at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “We
are delighted to hear that the high court has rejected the antiques lobby’s
bid to overturn the Ivory Act. It is a fantastic day for elephants, and for
everyone that has fought so hard to make the UK’s ivory ban one of the
toughest in the world.”

Vietnam Seizes 7.5 Tons of Elephant Ivory, Pangolin Scales

Police have seized 7.5 tons of elephant ivory and pangolin scales in one of Vietnam’s biggest wild animal trafficking cases.

By Associated Press, Wire Service ContentJune 14, 2019, at 3:31 a.m.

HANOI, VIETNAM (AP) — Authorities have seized 7.5 tons of elephant ivory and pangolin scales in one of Vietnam’s biggest wildlife trafficking cases.

The 3.5 tons of ivory and 4 tons of pangolin scales were found Wednesday in barrels when customs officers checked a shipping container arriving at northern Hai Phong port, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

The steel barrels containing the ivory and scales were mixed with ones containing tar to conceal the trafficked animal parts from customs authorities.

The freight was addressed to a logistic company in Hai Phong city, but the news website said no one had claimed ownership of the shipment. No details were available on its origin.

Police began a criminal investigation on Friday.

Poaching and trading of ivory tusks and pangolins carry penalties of up to 5 years in jail in Vietnam. However, the Southeast Asian country is also a common destination for trafficked wildlife parts and a transit point for ivory and other trafficked materials to China.

The pangolin is said to be the most widely trafficked mammal in the world. Its scales are made of keratin and are ground up to use in traditional medicines.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broa



Ending the ivory trade is key to securing a future for the world’s elephants, more than 20,000 of which are killed by poachers each year for their tusks. The international community is finally waking up to this theat. The USA and China have already introduced near-total bans. France has tightened up its legislation. Taiwan and Hong Kong have committed to act. In the UK, the Ivory Bill is currently working its way through Parliament.

These measures are encouraging, and while much remains to be done, they bring hope that one day the slaughter may end.

But it’s not just elephants that are threatened by people’s desire for ivory. The teeth from several other species, including hippos, walruses and narwhals, are also on the traders’ and traffickers’ wish lists.

Common hippos are much less common than elephants – as few as 115,000 remain across their rapidly reducing range in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet more than 38,000 individual teeth, 26 tonnes of teeth by weight, 6,550 hippo tusks, almost 6,500 ‘carvings’, and various other hippo products were legally traded between countries in the 10 years to 2016 – many destined for EU Member States.

Walruses are also in demand for their ivory. Between 2007 and 2016, more than 150,000 carvings, 12,500 items of ‘jewellery’, and various other walrus items including teeth and tusks were declared to have been traded internationally.

The distinctive long helical ‘tusk’ of the male narwhal, which is actually an elongated canine tooth, is also coveted. More than 2,500 tusks, 2,100 carvings and various other products from these toothed whales were traded commercially between countries in the decade to 2016.

Other species such as warthogs are also targeted for their teeth, although because they are not currently classified as threatened, data on international trade is lacking.

While the international community is rightly focused on protecting elephants, we must not forget that the trade in ivory for trinkets and carvings also threatens several other species. Some UK traders have already flagged increasing interest in hippo ivory as a replacement for elephant ivory to maintain the value of some objects from which the ivory has been lost or broken, or as a means of getting around a future ban on elephant ivory.

The UK’s Ivory Bill is very welcome, but it currently only covers elephant ivory. Thanks to Born Free’s efforts, the Government has committed to consulting on extending the ban to other ivory-bearing species once the Bill becomes law. For the sake of hippos, walruses, narwhals and others, we must hold them to this commitment, so the UK can act as an example to the rest of the world.

These precious and diminishing wild animals will only be safe once we end the demand for, and trade in, all ivory products for good.