SEE LINK TO OPEN LETTER:
Britain must follow the lead of Margaret Thatcher bring in a “total ban” on ivory traded in the UK, an alliance of senior politicians, celebrities and charities warn today.
Nearly 100 leading conservationists and campaigners, including the head of a charity backed by the Duke of Cambridge, say in an open letter to ministers published on Telegraph.co.uk that banning the trade in the UK should be a “matter of utmost priority”.
While it is illegal to sell post-1947 ivory in the UK, antique dealers can sell ornaments if they can prove that they are older. The Conservative manifesto said that the Government “would press for a total ban on ivory sales”.
The letter has been organised by Lord Hague, the former Foreign Secretary, and signed by an array of figures from all political parties including Owen Paterson, the former Environment Secretary, and Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party. There are also signatories from the Labour Party and the SNP.
Other signatories include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the campaigner and chef, Joanna Lumley, the actor, and John Cleese, along with leading charities including Tusk Trust, where the Duke of Cambridge is a patron, and the RSPCA.
Stanley Johnson, the father of Boris Johnson, also supports the ban and has signed the letter. His son also backs the ban although he is not a signatory.
The Foreign Secretary said last month: “The elephant is perhaps the single greatest glory of the animal kingdom. It is utterly heartbreaking that their numbers are falling so far and so fast. We must act and that means an ivory ban, as we Conservatives promised in our manifesto at the last election.”
Ministers last month announced the ban on UK sales of post-1947 ivory items without official verification that it is older. However the letter says that the revised legislation is “simply inadequate”.
It also calls on ministers to provide extra resources to bring “enhanced security” to communities threatened by poaching and increase efforts to disrupt criminal gangs which trade illegally in ivory. It highlights the role played by the late Baroness Thatcher in securing a global ban on the ivory trade.
Highlighting the Conservative manifesto pledge, the letter says: “Now is the time to take resolute action and… reflecting the overwhelming wishes of the British people, turn that promise into reality.
“In the past, the Government has been an international leader on the issue. Indeed it was under Mrs Thatcher’s administration in 1989 that the United Kingdom led efforts that resulted in a global ivory trade ban.
“It is time for the Government to take a global leadership position once more and help secure a long-term future for wild elephants and their natural habitats, while at the same time supporting local communities who live alongside these extraordinary and irreplaceable creatures.”
Other signatories to the letter include the Zoological Society of London, the Wildlife Trust and the Born Free foundation.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “The UK has a strong record as a global leader in the fight to end the elephant poaching crisis and we now plan to widen our ban to cover the sales of modern day ivory.
“The illegal wildlife trade is a global issue which will only be solved through international cooperation. At the recent CITES conference, we fully supported the vote to ensure nations voted against a resumption of trading in modern day ivory and continue our work to combat ivory trafficking.”
In August a survey found that 140,000 of Africa’s savannah elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014, wiping out almost a third of their population. Just 350,000 remain, with poaching continuing today and an elephant being killed every 15 minutes on average.
Next month ministers will attend the Illegal Wildlife Trade meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, where they are being urged to make Britain’s position “abundantly clear”. The Duke of Cambridge is expected to speak at the summit.