Elephants are pretty incredible beings! Not unlike ourselves, they often live to be 70 years old, they genuinely mourn the deaths of their loved ones, and they have a huge capacity for feeling emotions. They also use their feet to listen, picking up on vibrations in the ground, and can hold memories, with brains three to four times larger than an adult human’s.
These animals are absolutely incredible, yet we endanger them each and every day. Thanks to the ivory trade, the global elephant population has fallen drastically over the past century. In Africa, the elephant population decreased from 5 million in the 1930s to only 690,000 in the 1980s.
Elephant poaching doesn’t just affect the elephants whose lives are taken, but their communities as well. Because elephants have incredible memories, they will remember those deaths of their loves ones and will grieve their losses. Some elephants will even starve themselves to death in their grief.
It’s not just the elephants who suffer at the hands of the ivory trade, but people as well. Poachers are known to have shot and killed park rangers, just so they can capture these elephants. Armed groups in Africa have even hunted elephants for the sole purpose of selling the ivory to purchase more weapons. There are a number of issues wrapped up in the ivory trade, which is why it’s such a controversial topic now.
In response to these concerns, the UK government just announced a ban on the sale of ivory, regardless of its age. That’s right: Even if it’s an antique, you won’t be able to buy it in the UK. Although the UK has implemented regulations on ivory in the past, they still represent the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, so the hope is that this new law will help to put an end to the trade altogether.
UK Bans Ivory Trade Once and For All
Every day, over 50 elephants are murdered by poachers. The population of African elephants fell by a third between 2007 and 2014 alone. Many experts have suggested that elephants are approaching a danger zone, and that if we continue to poach them, they will become extinct.
Although the international ivory trade was deemed illegal in 1990, the UK previously allowed the sale of antiques carved before 1947 as well as items produced before 1990 that held government certificates. However, the new ban will include all ivory, including said antiques.
The new ban was put forward by British politician Michael Gove, who explained: “The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation. The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory.”
Although the ban still has a few exceptions, such as antique musical instruments and some other items that hold “cultural value” or “very small amounts of ivory,” the government is hoping that this will bring us one step further toward ending elephant poaching.
It’s obviously important to implement regulations at a country level, but how will this affect the global trade? Tanya Steele, WWF’s CEO, said:
This illegal trade involving organised criminals is a global problem requiring global solutions: to end it anywhere means ending it everywhere. This is about a lot more than banning ivory sales in one country. It means working with global leaders and communities around the world, particularly in China and south-east Asia, to implement bans and stop the illegal trade.
Since the UK currently represents the world’s leading exporter of legal ivory carvings and antiques, this will surely make a difference to the global ivory trade. Although this issue is a global one, it’s important to make country-level changes.
Even the smallest actions can have a huge impact on the world! Without a high demand for ivory, there would be no need for poachers to kill elephants in the first place.
Even if it’s an antique and it’s already been produced, that still speaks to the growing demand for ivory and suggests to poachers that people still want these products. You vote with your dollar; if you don’t want to support elephant poaching, then don’t buy products made from elephants. It’s that simple.
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