New EU rules to end trade in raw ivory

EPA/PAUL ZINKEN

Seized objects made of ivory are displayed during a press conference of the Office for Customs Investigation Berlin-Brandenburg in Berlin, Germany, 09 September 2016.

New EU rules to end trade in raw ivory


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The export of old raw ivory in the European Union will be illegal as of July. New rules adopted by the European Commission will prohibit EU member states from issuing export documents for raw ivory.

Foreseen in the EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking, the Commission’s decision is aimed at helping to combat the international ivory trafficking, which has risen significantly over the last decade.

“Fighting international ivory trafficking is a battle we can’t afford to lose,” Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said on May 16. “By ending the export of ivory tusks and other raw ivory we are living up to our responsibility. And we are delivering on the next commitment in our Action Plan against wildlife trafficking. Our financial support for developing countries will strengthen their capacity to implement the CITES Convention. This is essential to achieve progress in the fight against poaching and for sustainable wildlife trade.”

The adoption of guidance on ivory trade corresponds to a commitment taken by the EU and its Member States as part of the Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan adopted in 2016. It also responds to calls from the European Parliament and civil society. In the coming months, the Commission will gather data and consult with stakeholders and the public to see if further restrictions on ivory trade are necessary.

Worldwide, however, elephant poaching and ivory trafficking have reached record levels despite an international ivory ban. It is estimated that between 20 000 and 30 000 African elephants are poached every year. Ivory seizures amount to more than 40 tonnes in 2015. The rising demand for ivory products in Asia is one of the main reasons for this surge in trafficking.

The EU has already very strict rules on ivory trade. Under these rules, ivory trade is banned, except for items acquired before 1990, when all African elephants obtained the maximum protection under CITES.

The European Commission announced new financial support of €2.25m for the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help with the implementation of the decisions on international wildlife trade agreed at the CITES Conference of Parties in October 2016.

Worldwide, however, elephant poaching and ivory trafficking have reached record levels despite an international ivory ban. It is estimated that between 20 000 and 30 000 African elephants are poached every year. Ivory seizures amount to more than 40 tonnes in 2015. The rising demand for ivory products in Asia is one of the main reasons for this surge in trafficking.

According to the European Commission’ press release, the EU has been a longstanding supporter of the CITES Convention, which regulates international trade in about 35,000 animal and plant species. Important decisions against wildlife trafficking were adopted by the 183 CITES Parties at their last meeting in October 2016.

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