28 September, 2016

The UK’s environmental minister, Andrea Leadsom, has announced a full prohibition on the sale on ivory objects made after March 1947, further emphasising the 1975 CITES Convention and no longer allowing post 1947 objects to apply for exemptions.

Trade in “worked” ivory, art and ornaments dating from before 1947 will continue to be permitted and as they are deemed to be antiques however all unworked ivory and raw tusks will continue to be subject to a complete ban, regardless of age.

Members of the conservation community say that the current rules and lack of stringent checks can be used as cover for illegal trade but this announcement serves as a further step towards ending the modern-day poaching of endangered species and puts the UK rules on ivory sales amongst the toughest in the world.

Currently, sellers can circumvent the law by claiming a lack of knowledge of the age and history of the piece but the new rules will mean that evidence will be required to prove the ivory is pre-1947  and what this evidence should be will be the basis of discussions in the coming months.

The government has announced that it will consult a number of parties such as environmental groups and the antiques trade industry itself to establish both how and when a ban could be introduced as well as how it will be enforced.

These discussions will look to assess how objects will gain the necessary proof of age needed to be able to be sold and media reports state that the preferred option for the antiques industry would be expert authentication as documented evidence may not always exist.

There are however a number of other options which have been mentioned at this early stage, such as a creation of either a passport system or a database logging the existence of antique ivory objects.

The 17th CITES Conference of the Parties in South Africa in currently underway and runs from the 24th September to 5th October 2016.

Find the official government press release here.