Undreds of ivory items remain on sale in the UK despite a near total ban on its trade having been in effect for months, a charity has found.
The import, export and dealing of elephant ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date – became illegal in June, unless they have been registered or have an exemption certificate.
Wildlife charity Born Free said it had identified hundreds of ivory items still being sold online, as well as an increase in the sale of ivory from hippos and other threatened species not protected by the new legislation.
In a single month, researchers discovered more than 600 ivory listings with a total guide price of £1.2 million on just three online sales sites.
It’s crucial that both the Government and e-commerce websites take action to ensure that any continuing ivory trade at least complies with the law
While the figures suggested that the new Ivory Act had successfully reduced the volume of elephant ivory being traded online, almost half of the listings were thought to be illegal.
Researchers also found significantly more items – 353 compared with 277 before the ban – were now being listed “covertly” as “bone”.
Born Free is calling on the government to strengthen enforcement of the Ivory Act to encourage greater compliance among traders.
It also wants hippo ivory, and ivory from other species such as warthog, included within the Act to give the species the same protection as elephants.
Elephants are commonly targeted for their tusks and the demand for ivory is known to contribute to poaching, driving a decline in populations.
The number of elephants free in the wild has declined by almost a third, with the savanna elephant population plummeting by around 30% – equal to 144,000 elephants – across 15 African countries between 2007 and 2014.
It is estimated that around 20,000 elephants are still being slaughtered annually because of the global demand for ivory.
Frankie Osuch, Born Free’s policy support officer and author of the report, said: “It’s encouraging to see that many sellers appear willing to comply with the new Ivory Act as well-enforced ivory bans are crucial for protecting wild elephants.
“However, it’s frustrating to see that some auction houses and private dealers are instead choosing to find ways to evade detection on platforms so that they can illegally continue selling ivory online.
“It’s crucial that both the Government and e-commerce websites take action to ensure that any continuing ivory trade at least complies with the law.”
The government launched a digital ivory service earlier this year, allowing those who own ivory to register or apply for an exemption certificate.
People need to register or certify items only for the purposes of dealing in exempt items containing ivory. Those who own but are not planning to sell their ivory items do not need to register or certify them.
The Government is also considering extending the Ivory Act to other ivory-bearing species and will publish the response to its consultation later this year.