UK Ivory Act – Ivory Bearing Species Consultation

Stephen Wiggins Article 1 Comment

The United Kingdom government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)) is seeking consultation (via an on-line survey) on extending the scope of the Ivory Act 2018 to encompass five additional ivory bearing species (hippopotamus, narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and walrus), not just elephants  – this DEFRA consultation runs until 11 September 2021. 

The UK Ivory Act 2018 has received Royal Assent and will be passed into legislation – the Ivory Bill consultation commenced in 2017, and after various unsuccessful challenges by the antiques industry, the Ivory Act 2018 will comprehensively curtail the import and export of elephant ivory into and from the United Kingdom, bringing “into force one of the toughest domestic bans on elephant ivory sales in the world” (DEFRA).  

However, ivory is sought and traded from species such as hippopotamus, narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and walrus.

Loop-holes, such as the trophy hunting of hippopotamus provides a deceitful, ‘legal’ way in which ivory can be obtained to illicitly trade on as a commodity, when the teeth are taken as part of a hippopotamus hunting trophy for example.

It is still ‘legal’ to trophy hunt hippopotamus, regardless of the species (Hippopotamus amphibius) being classed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as ‘Vulnerable,’ with an estimated global population of only around 110,000 – 130,000. Threats such as illegal hunting (for meat) and the illicit supply of hippo canine teeth as a source for ivory are among the many threats this species faces – so why add to the attrition with shooting them for trophy hunting recreation?

Therefore, it is essential that all such persecuted species (Option 2, “Extend the Act to ivory from five CITES listed species (hippopotamus, narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and walrus)” in the DEFRA Consultation) are extended protection from being hunted/killed for their teeth/tusks/ivory content. The reality is that all forms of ivory worship stimulates undesirable demand, speculation and thereby, perpetuates the on-going slaughter of ivory bearing species to cash-in – until that ‘worship’ of ivory for financial gain, or as a symbol of status and wealth is ended, then demand for fresh sources of ivory will be perpetuated.


Further Reading

Imports of ivory from hippos, orcas and walruses to be banned in UK,” The Guardian, 23 May 2024

Ten African countries accuse EU of failing to protect hippos,” The Guardian, 8 November 2022

UK government seeks to extend protection of ivory-bearing animals,” The Guardian, 17 July 2021

The often overlooked ivory trade,” TRAFFIC, April 2021


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