Unscrupulous ivory traders may avoid new UK ban, charity says | Animal welfare

Ivory hawkers may continue to sell elephant tusks after a new ban masking their products as walrus or narwhal derivatives, activists have warned.

As of Monday, trade in elephant teeth and fangs is illegal in the UK, punishable by fines of up to £ 250,000 or up to five years in prison under the Ivorian Act. Pre-1975 musical instruments and antique items of “outstanding importance” are exempt from the act, as is ivory from non-elephant species.

But Born Free Foundation, charity, calls for the ban to be extended to the ivory of other species, saying unscrupulous sellers could otherwise pass on elephant products as derivatives of unprotected mammals.

Research by the campaign group found £ 1.1m of ivory-containing products listed for sale at three UK online fairs in a single month in late 2021. In two-thirds of the 1,832 ivory product lists, it was impossible to identify the species because of the limited number and quality of ivory. the images provided, the researchers said.

Of the ivory-containing particles where the species could be identified, the majority were derived from elephants (491 out of 606), with walruses (48), sperm whales (26), hippos (15), falcons (12), mammoths (eight). and narwhals (six) also appeared.

Will Travers OBE, co-founder and executive chairman of Born Free, said: “Our report’s home message is that all ivory business – of any kind – must end. of ivory, representing about 150 dead elephants.

“Through e-commerce, could this be intended – at least in part – for the UK market?”

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s chief policy officer, said: only things that really meet the exemption criteria can be exchanged. Our research demonstrates the enormous scale of ivory internet commerce in the UK. “

Jones said he is concerned that police are putting too much strain on themselves to control the vast internet marketplace, allowing flight-after-night shoppers a chance to omit illegal elephant ivory like anything else.

The Born Free report, titled Is Ivory Sellers Lying Through Their Teeth ?, uncovered 331 cases in a single month of sellers selling ivory on eBay UK – despite ivory trading being banned on the platform in 2009.

Most of the ivory products listed on the site were disguised with varying degrees of subtlety, with one claiming that the item was “cold to the touch”, a recognized code phrase, and another saying that the material came from an “animal with a trunk”. .

Often, sellers listed products as “ivory” or “fake ivory” on eBay UK, while admitting that they actually contained ivory in advertisements for the same item appearing on specialist auction sites.

There were 414 individual sellers of ivory products across the UK and Channel Islands identified during the month-long study period, selling products that included walking sticks, ornaments, jewelery and a hairbrush.

Like eBay, Born Free found items for sale on Barnebys (a popular auctioneer and antique search engine) and Antiques Atlas (a special online marketplace).

An eBay spokesman said: “eBay is a founding member of the Coalition to Stop Wild Internet Smuggling. teams dedicated to enforcing our policies, and over the last two years we have blocked or removed more than 265,000 bans banned under our animal policy. “

Antiques Atlas later removed the ad. Itiques Smith of Antiques Atlas said: “The ivory category and its related stock have now been removed. We are not a large auction site with large volumes of stocks sold weekly. We have had one item uploaded to that category in the last six months.

“Over the last two years we’ve found that most traders have reduced their ivory stock and moved away from it … I don’t think I’ve come across a single antique dealer who hasn’t been against the illegal ivory trade and the threat it poses. an endangered species. ” Smith said he would also support a complete ban on the sale of ivory abroad from the UK.

The government has demanded evidence of a ban on trade in non-elephant ivory in 2019. Among the species considered for protection were hippos, orcas, narwhals, sperm whales, walruses, common falcons, desert falcons and mammoths.

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Some respondents to the consultation protested against extending the ivory ban to non-elephant species, with one saying it would have a massively detrimental effect on musicians who rely on those sources for instrument manufacturing and repair.

Another respondent argued that banning the ivory trade of these species would harm “small businesses, private collectors, museums, researchers and students from everything from antiques to antique ladies’ dresses, without preserving endangered animals.”

Peter Goldsmith, Minister of Animal Welfare, said: “As one of the most severe bans of its kind, we are sending a clear message that the elephant ivory trade is completely unacceptable.”

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