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Ivory ban needs local enforcement say campaigners and national lead

Endangered species could be saved by new legislation banning ivory sales - and sharp-eyed local teams can make all the difference.

Wildlife crime officers and trading standards teams have been urged to enforce the ban on elephant ivory sales.

Animal welfare charities and the national leads on wildlife crime have called for forces to prosecute people selling elephant ivory as a ban comes into force.

Forces should not under-estimate the illegal trade in elephant ivory, the national enforcement unit has warned.

As legislation came into effect banning sales, the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) warned forces needed to be aware that offenders linked to the international trade were likely to continue their activities – and they could be found anywhere in the country.

The NWCU warned: “The elephant ivory ban finally comes into force today. It's an important milestone for nature, but not the end of the road. The ban must be effectively implemented and more species need protection.”

Under the Ivory Act 2018, the purchase and sale of elephant tusks is now punishable by fines of up to £250,000 or five years in prison.

Wildlife campaigners estimate around 20,000 elephants are killed for their ivory every year. And despite growing international opposition there is still demand from trophy hunting collectors and people who use it to make household ornaments.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs is leading on enforcement of the legislation and has included people in the UK setting up deals abroad.

The only exceptions are:

Wildlife campaigners said forces had to take action wherever in the UK offenders were found, no matter how small scale their activities were.

James Sawyer, IFAW UK Director, said: “It is now vital that the ban is effectively enforced and that those who attempt to circumvent it face the full force of the law.” 

Forces were warned by the NWCU that offenders are not confined to London.

Ahead of the ban, the unit revealed it had completed an asset recovery order totalling £60,000 against a man from Derby.

He had been trading in unworked tusks cut from the endangered animals, cutlery and ornamentals including billiard balls, figurines, and a cigarette holder.

Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit said: “The illegal wildlife trade is a global issue, and this is an example of an international case with reach ending on the streets of the UK. Criminals exploit our animals for their own selfish gain with little to no regard for their welfare, inflicting the worst types of cruelty to maximise monetary gain.”

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