UK may extend elephant ivory ban to other species

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The UK may extend its ban on elephant ivory to other species including hippos.

Hippos, walruses and killer whales are just some of the ivory-bearing species that could be afforded greater protections under new proposals being consulted on by the Government from July 17.

As laid out in our Action Plan for Animal Welfare, the proposals would see the UK’s landmark Ivory Act, which will bring in a near-total ban on the import, export and dealing of items containing elephant ivory in the UK when it comes into effect, extended to other ivory-bearing species.

Elephants are not the only species targeted for their ivory – other endangered or near-threatened species such as hippo also face threats from poaching. Hunting practices also contribute to the trade in ivory, with killer whales and sperm whales targeted for their teeth, as well as narwhals and walruses for their tusks.

Hippos are defined as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with a population less than 130,000 estimated to be left in the wild. Their sedentary nature coupled with their dependence on water makes them easier to hunt and more susceptible to poaching. Hippos are now the most at-threat species from the trade in ivory after the elephant as they are found in the same geographic area, and the infrastructure, trade routes and networks are already in place to support the illegal trade.

Arctic species such as walrus and narwhals face pressures from climate change which further makes the trade in ivory from these species unsustainable. Accurate population estimates for narwhals are difficult but it is thought that are only 75,000 narwhals alive in the wild. Their tusks have long been a subject of fascination – they can grow as long as 10 feet and are thought to have sensory capabilities, with up to 10 million nerve endings inside.

Launching the consultation, International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said, “The Ivory Act is one of the toughest bans of its kind in the world and sends a clear message that we are doing all that we can to save elephants from the threat of extinction. However the ivory trade is a conservation threat for other magnificent species such as the hippo, narwhal and walrus that are at threat. So I urge everyone to share their views to help ensure we can protect more animals from the grim ivory trade.”


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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