Australia Needs Tighter Ivory Sale Laws to Protect Elephants, Parliamentary Committee Hears


The Guardian

Date Published

Australia’s failure to regulate the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horns could be contributing to the demise of the animals, a parliamentary committee has heard.

The committee is looking into the country’s regulations and whether they allow newly-poached ivory and horns to be passed off as antiques.

Australia has a ban on ivory imports but it’s legal to buy and sell ivory items domestically.

The Department of Environment and Energy revealed during a public hearing in Sydney on Tuesday it “does not regulate domestic sales of items containing elephant ivory and rhino horn”.

Rather, it is responsible for implementing strict international trade requirements that limit imports and exports, including for research or if the item is vintage.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, who pushed for the inquiry, said the government had a role in enforcing the rules and its lack of regulation was a “failure”.

She claims 50 auction houses across the country are known to trade in ivory and rhino horns.

“We need to determine whether we are creating an opportunity for laundering of illegal wildlife horns and ivory into Australia and through the country,” she said.

Singh also warned the closure of ivory domestic markets in China and Hong Kong could see Australia become a transit and destination country for wildlife trafficking.

The inquiry will look at the UK’s tough approach which bans the sale of ivoryof any age, with limited exceptions.

“We need to discover if whether our current law or lack of laws are enough or are we inadvertently contributing to this global organised crime,” she said.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2016 found one African elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory and that more than 1,300 rhinos were killed in 2015.

The inquiry will also investigate whether Australian Border Force and other agencies have the right training to identify the legitimacy of documentation and the age of imported rhino horn and ivory products.

Public hearings will be held in Melbourne, Perth and Canberra over the next week.