Illegal ivory found on sale in 10 European countries

Christopher Davidson
July 12, 2018

European Union officials have claimed that there is no evidence that the legal ivory trade in the EU is helping to cover up a trade in illegal items - but this survey calls that into question.

Three-quarters of the items tested were also found to be from after 1947, a date after which ivory products can only be sold with government-issued certificates, which none of them had.

When the items were analysed by Oxford University's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, more than 74% were found to be from after 1947.

Nearly three-quarters of all ivory sold legally in Europe is in fact illicit and comes from tusks of elephants that were killed after the 1990 ban on ivory trade, according to an investigation released on Tuesday (10 July).

Three quarters were modern ivory, being sold illegally as fake antiques.

LONDON-Illegal ivory is being openly sold across Europe as "antiques" because traders have found a loophole in European law, researchers say.

The EU says that past year it strengthened measures to fight poaching and end the trade in raw ivory. "Every day (when) the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever".

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Avaaz urged in a statement that "the Commission should close the antique ivory loophole, end ivory exports from Europe and shut down the EU's internal trade in raw tusks".

However, campaigners have grown increasingly vocal in their opposition to any form of trade in ivory, as demand from China has shown little sign of abating and the dwindling remaining populations of elephants in Africa and Asia are under more threat than ever from increasingly mechanised and vicious predations by poachers, the Guardian reported. Overall, all the pieces bought in Italy, Spain and Bulgaria were illegal, as well as the majority bought in France, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The European Commission said that addressing poaching and ivory trafficking was a cornerstone of an EU action plan against wildlife trafficking and that the Commission was now discussing the next steps.

An exhibition at the European Parliament on Tuesday calling for a ban on ivory trade in Europe. (Avaaz) A trinket from Bulgaria. In April, the United Kingdom announced its own domestic ivory ban with even tougher measures.

"Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world's toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations", the UK's environment secretary, Michael Gove, said at the time.

The ban was also a victory for Britain's Prince William, who has long campaigned against the ivory trade.

The European Commission is now reviewing whether or not EU restrictions on ivory go far enough. She said some items were particularly crudely made.

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