THE government’s plan to outlaw the sale of ivory is “long overdue,” Labour said yesterday amid warnings that elephants are facing extinction.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has set out proposals for a near-total ban and said that drastic declines in elephant populations fuelled by poaching “shames our generation.”
Around 20,000 elephants are being killed annually for their tusks, experts warn, and the animals could become extinct within decades in some African countries if current rates of poaching continue.
But shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said that a near-ban was not enough and full prohibition would be welcome.
She said: “A total ban on trading ivory is long overdue.
“It will be crucial to scrutinise any exemptions to the trade ban being proposed and to ensure these proposals are comprehensive and followed through.”
Conservation groups have called for a ban amid concerns the legal market in ivory has been used as a cover for illegal ivory trade.
Britain also makes legal shipments of antiques to Asia, which fuels the world’s largest ivory markets and also encourages poaching.
Existing rules allow for “worked” or carved items produced before March 3 1947 to be sold in Britain while sale of raw ivory of any age is prohibited.
Under the new proposals, which are being put out for consultation, sales of the older worked items would be banned.
Piano keys, items with small amounts of ivory, sales to and between museums and items with significant historical or cultural value would be exempted.
WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said that a global effort must be made involving China and south-east Asia.
The US has introduced a near-total ban while China and Hong Kong have announced plans to close their domestic markets.