Letter from Action for Elephants UK and 125 signatories to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling on the government to ban all ivory trade in the UK.
The Conservative Party has promised twice in its election manifestos (in 2010 and 2015) to enact such a ban but it has failed to do so.
This letter was delivered to No. 10 Downing St. at the end of the London Global March for Elephants and Rhinos on 24 September.
At the end of the letter is an Addendum, which was written in response to the government’s announcement on 21 Sept of a crackdown on ivory sales.
The story was first covered in The Guardian.
24 September 2016
Dear Prime Minister,
Action for Elephants UK is a grassroots group fighting to save elephants and to end poaching and the ivory trade that perpetuates it. With the support of wildlife NGOs, we’re organising the UK marches taking place on September 24th as part of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER).
The third annual Global March will take place this year on the opening day of CITES CoP17 in Johannesburg. Over 140 cities around the world will unite to call for a global ban on ivory and rhino horn trade, and for other measures to help save these iconic species. Action for Elephants UK and the undersigned groups are appealing to the government for a total ban on ivory sales in the UK, which is one of the Conservative Party manifesto commitments.
Tens of thousands of elephants are still being slaughtered every year for their ivory. This rate of poaching is pushing African elephants ever closer to extinction, and the window of opportunity for saving them is rapidly shrinking. Since poaching for the ivory trade is the most pressing threat facing Africa’s elephants, the closure of all ivory markets, both international and domestic, is critical for their survival.
At present, the legal ivory trade in the UK feeds one of the largest markets for ivory in Europe. Significant amounts of ivory are also sold through online marketplaces in the UK. The existence of a legal ivory trade serves as a cover for illegal sales of ivory, while continuing to perpetuate the cycle of supply and demand.
The laws that attempt to regulate the ivory trade in the UK have proved to be ineffective and unworkable, and ivory sellers – whether market traders or high-end auction houses – continue to sell ivory without the required paperwork. The police and the courts don’t have the resources to monitor the trade or prosecute all cases where the law is broken.
Earlier this months, the results of the Great Elephant Census – the first aerial census of Africa’s elephant populations – revealed that one-third of Africa’s elephants were wiped out in just seven years (2007 to 2014) – equivalent to 144,000 elephants. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, over 100,000 elephants were brutally slaughtered for their ivory. The poaching continues today across much of Africa, with some countries seeing an increase in illegal killings.
Rhinos are also in dire peril because of poaching for their horn, which has soared in recent years – in South Africa alone, by 9000% since 2007. Furthermore, the trade in ivory and horn is fuelled by organized criminal networks and widespread corruption; known terrorist groups are involved in both the poaching of elephants and rhinos and trafficking their body parts, reaping huge profits.
The past two years have seen an increase in international momentum to ban ivory: following a joint announcement on ivory bans by the USA and China in September 2015, the USA brought in a ban on ivory in July 2016, and China imposed a 3-year ban on ivory imports, promising a timeline for a complete ban by the end of 2016. Hong Kong, one of the biggest hubs of the illegal wildlife trade, announced in June 2016 that it will move towards a ban. France announced a ban on ivory trade in all its territories in April 2016.
Against this backdrop of global momentum, we would encourage the UK to not only take similar action by closing its own domestic ivory markets, but lead the way as a powerful voice in stopping this trade globally.
While your government has shown leadership in combatting the illegal wildlife trade internationally, including the landmark 2014 London Conference, it now needs to show similar leadership in implementing a total ban on all trade in ivory products in the UK once and for all.
With regard to CoP17, we hope the UK delegates will be voting against all proposals to allow trade in ivory and rhino horn, and in favour of proposals that afford these species maximum protection, including uplisting all elephants to Appendix 1.
Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Founder, Action for Elephants UK
And the undersigned:
Dr Jane Goodall PhD DBE
Founder the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger for Peace
Founder, Kenya Wildlife Service
Former Head of Kenya’s Civil Service and Secretary to Cabinet in Kenya
Virginia McKenna OBE, Hon Dr Science
Founder, Born Free Foundation
President, Born Free Foundation
Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE
Chairman, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Charlie Mayhew MBE
Chief Executive Tusk Trust
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
MP, Westmorland and Lonsdale
Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas
Joint Leaders, UK Green Party
Lord Hague of Richmond
MP, Doncaster North and former Leader of the Labour Party
Professor Stephen Hawking
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS
Writer and Producer
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith
Bishop of St Albans
Khalid Anis MBE
Islamic Society of Britain
Dr Mahinda Deegalle
Reader in Study of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics
Ingrid E. Newkirk
Founder, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Chairman, The Aspinall Foundation
Co-chairman, Environmentalists for Europe
Nicky Campbell OBE
Broadcaster and journalist
Co-founder, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
Chairman, Sauvez les Elephants d’Afrique/France
Executive Director, Humane Society International UK
Founder and Director, Rainforest Rescue
Prof David Bellamy
Co-founder, Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Director of Operations, Big Life
Director, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust iworry Campaign
Founder, Elephant Aid International
Documentary maker and TV presenter
Founding member, Kenyans United Against Poaching – KUAPO Trust
CEO, Cheli & Peacock Safaris
Trustee, the Land and Life Foundation
President, Animal Defenders International (ADI)
Arend de Haas
Co-founder & Director, African Conservation Foundation
Founder and CEO Virry App
Honorary Director, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Dr Keith Dutlow and Dr Lisa Marabini
Co-Founders, AWARE Trust
Dr Kate Evans
Founder & Director, Elephants for Africa
Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.
Elephant & Cetacean Scientist
CEO, Animals United e.V.
Board Member, Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V.
Executive Director, Ulinzi Africa Foundation
Founder, Walk with Rangers Initiative
CEO, SPANA (The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad)
Dr Lynn Johnson
Breaking the Brand
Founder and Chairman, Helping Rhinos
Dr Trevor Jones
Dereck & Beverly Joubert
Conservationists, filmmakers, National Geographic Explorers in Residence
Max and Josh Kauderer
Founders, Elephant Highway
Alan Knight OBE
CEO, International Animal Rescue
Laurene K. Knowles
Founder & President, Elemotion Foundation
Prof. Phyllis Lee
Scientific Director, Amboseli Trust for Elephants
Christine Macsween and Dr Pieter Kat
Founder, International Anti-Poaching Foundation
Director, IFAW UK
Director, Campaign Against Canned Hunting
Founder/Director, Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
Founder, For the Love of Wildlife
Vice President of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States
Executive Director, Care for the Wild Kenya
Chairman, Rhino Fund Uganda
Director General, Chester Zoo
Science Director, Chester Zoo
Hannah Pollock and Jamie Unwin
Co-founders, Stand up for Nature
CEO, Elephant Family
Ian Redmond OBE
Independent Wildlife Biologist, Co-Founder of the Elefriends campaign (1989) and Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species
Dr Mary Rice
Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency
Professor Alice Roberts
Biological anthropologist, author and broadcaster
Director of Elephants, Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation
CEO, Naturewatch Foundation, sponsors of World Animal Day
Dr Adam Rutherford
Geneticist, Author & Broadcaster
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
David Shepherd CBE
Founder and President of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Country Director, World Animal Protection UK
Broadcaster and Journalist
Rhino Conservation Dubai
Founder and Director of Elephantopia
Wildlife Presenter and Conservationist
International Executive Director, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization
Founder & Chair, Animal Aid Abroad (Australia)
Director, Elephant Listening Project
Co-founder, Chengeta Wildlife
Members of Parliament:
MP, North West Norfolk (CON)
Sir Henry Bellingham
MP, North West Norfolk (CON)
MP, Sheffield South East (LAB)
MP, Carshalton and Wallington (LIB DEM)
MP, Kilmarnock and Loudoun (SNP)
MP, Newcastle upon Tyne East (LAB)
MP, Congleton (CON)
MP, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (SNP)
MP, Foyle (SDLP)
Nigel Evans (CON)
MP, Ribble Valley
MP, Birmingham Hall Green (LAB)
MP, Richmond Park and Kingston North (CON)
MP, St Albans (CON)
MP, Bassetlaw (LAB)
MP, Colne Valley (CON)
Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Women & Equalities
MP, Ashton-under-Lyne (LAB)
MP, Romford (CON)
MP, Manchester Withington (LAB)
Sir Nicholas Soames
MP, Mid Sussex (CON)
MP, Warley (LAB)
House of Lords:
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Baroness Young of Old Scone
Members of European Parliament:
MEP, South East England (LIB DEM)
Molly Scott Cato
MEP, South West England and Gibraltar (GREEN)
MEP, Yorkshire and The Humber (LAB)
Stefan Bernhard Eck
MEP, Germany (GREEN)
MEP, South West England (CON)
MEP, London (GREEN)
MEP, South East England (GREEN)
Addendum – 21 Sept 2016
Further to the crackdown on ivory sales announced by the government on 21 September, this does not represent the total ban we are calling for. It simply tightens controls on the documentation required for dating ivory for sale, however no mechanisms could ever ensure that such controls are met and enforced for every single piece of ivory sold in the UK. As long as a legal ivory trade is allowed to continue, illegal ivory will find its way on to the market – and ongoing demand will fuel the scourge of poaching. We are dismayed that your government has chosen this route rather than announcing a complete ban as it has twice promised to do.
If the UK government wants to prove its intentions in working towards a total ban of the domestic trade, there will be the perfect opportunity at CITES next week. We call on the UK delegation in Johannesburg to vote in favour of the resolution encouraging nations around the world to ban their domestic ivory trades. Whether the rest of the EU will support this resolution appears uncertain, and the UK should endeavour to persuade the EU Council to back it. If necessary, the UK should follow its conscience and vote separately, as it has done in the past with supporting the ban on fishing for bluefin tuna in 2010. Now is the time to take a principled stand again, and do all it can to save elephants from extinction.
Action for Elephants UK