EU gets tougher on ivory trafficking


In July, the European Commission stepped up its fight against ivory trafficking and elephant poaching, with new, tighter rules on the export of raw ivory from Europe. It is now inviting individuals and organisations to submit their views on what more the EU should do to tackle ivory trafficking.

Up to 30 000 African elephants are being brutally slaughtered each year for their tusks, largely to satisfy a growing market for ivory products in Asia. Elephant numbers are plummeting as a result, negating the rise we started to see at the end of the 1990s.

Fighting international ivory trafficking is a battle we can’t afford to lose.

EU Environment Commissioner
Karmenu Vella

International trade in ivory is banned, with the exemption of old ivory items dating back to the 1970s, when elephants were given protection under CITES, the global framework for fighting wildlife trafficking. As a result, it was legally possible to export these old ivory items from the EU. The export of old ivory tusks from the EU to Asia had risen continuously since 2012, a strong indicator that this exemption might have been fuelling the global demand for ivory, or that it was serving as a cover for the illegal ivory trade.

Now the Commission has closed this potential loophole, issuing new guidance to effectively block the export of raw ivory. This move puts into effect a commitment the EU made in 2016 in its Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.

Going further

The plight of Africa’s elephants is of wide public concern. The European Parliament has called for a total ban on trading in ivory in the EU. The USA, China and other countries have recently decided on new measures to restrict their domestic ivory trade. The Commission is now consulting Europeans on what more the EU should do to tackle the illegal ivory trade. The online consultation is open until 8 December. The Commission will publish a report summarising the results online while drawing on public feedback to guide future policy.

The EU has also launched numerous initiatives against international ivory trafficking. It is the main donor supporting African countries and international law-enforcement agencies to step up their efforts against these criminal activities. Furthermore, the Commission has provided €2.25 million to help developing countries implement CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Via CITES, the EU has been pressing for the adoption of targeted recommendations, including trade sanctions, against countries involved as source, transit or final destination for ivory trafficking.

“Fighting international ivory trafficking is a battle we can’t afford to lose,” said EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella. “Our financial support for developing countries will strengthen their capacity to implement the CITES Convention. This is essential to achieve progress in the fight against poaching."

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