EU announcement to "severely restrict ivory trade" & protect elephants from ivory poaching

The European Commission has announced a revised regulation and new guidance, severely restricting trade in ivory. The new measures are the strongest yet for the European Union (EU), among the largest exporters of legal ivory in the world. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) welcomed this as a step in the right direction, but says there is more work to be done to protect elephants.

The new EU guidance will considerably restrict domestic ivory trade, as well as imports and re-exports of both raw and worked ivory. Only a few exceptions for antiques and some musical instruments will remain.

"After years of campaigning, this announcement is an important milestone in the fight against wildlife crime, and great news for elephants. The nearly full closure of the EU domestic ivory market and the suspension of the imports and re-exports both in raw and worked ivory will hinder criminal efforts to launder illegal ivory and reduce incentives for poaching," said Ilaria Di Silvestre, IFAW's Head of EU Policy and Campaigns.

While this new legislation demonstrates that the EU is finally taking action to address the slaughter of thousands of elephants each year by poachers, it is not quite a full 'ban' on ivory trade. Most of the new regulations are not legally binding. It is the responsibility of each EU Member State to implement them, and for the European Commission to monitor progress. This move by the EU follows in the wake of similar actions by China. In 2016, with the strong support of IFAW, implemented a binding near-total ban on commercial trade in ivory and in 2017, China followed suit with a complete ban on commercial ivory sales.

"IFAW thanks the public who called for EU action, and while there is much to celebrate with this historic milestone, our work continues as implementation will be crucial for actual change to take place. IFAW hopes this announcement will not remain mere ink on paper," added Staci McLennan, IFAW's EU Office Director.

There are several upcoming opportunities for the EU and Member States to demonstrate their commitment to protecting elephants and all wildlife, and together help to safeguard the world's rapidly declining biodiversity. Most urgent is the long-overdue renewal of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking (WTAP), as well as the Environmental Crime Directive, which the Commission agreed to strengthen.

As a founding member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, IFAW continues to engage with prominent platforms to take quick and effective action to remove illegal wildlife products such as ivory from their online markets.

In addition, its 'cyber spotters' initiative trains citizens on how to identify and report suspicious listings online—a critical tool in the new EU Digital Services Act (DSA) that is currently being drafted. Stricter, more harmonized rules, and the establishment of clear liability for online marketplaces, would make the detection and enforcement of illegal wildlife trade easier for all Member States.

Image: Donal Boyd/IFAW

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