Brussels, 26 March 2019.
Joint press release by Born Free Foundation, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, Conservation International, Eurogroup for Animals, Environmental Investigation Agency, Fondation Franz Weber, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Pro Wildlife, Robin des Bois, Stop Ivory, WCS EU, Zoological Society of London
Last week Belgium’s House of Representatives unanimously supported proposals to ban commercial trade in ivory (with strictly defined exemptions). The Federal Parliament will vote at its plenary session in early April, and is expected to adopt the proposals. This move brings Belgium in line with leading European countries such as the UK, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands, all of which have recently introduced ivory trade bans or restrictions.
Recognising the EU as “a hub of the illegal trade of endangered wildlife,” the Belgian Environment Minister, Marie Christine Marghem, publicly called for a total ban on the EU domestic ivory trade, during meetings with the Kenyan government earlier this month.
Commenting after the decision by Belgium’s House of Representatives, Arnaud Goessens of WCS EU stated “The Belgian Senate has also passed a resolution calling on the EU Commission to urgently implement a general trade ban in ivory throughout the EU. We commend Belgian representatives for their leadership and appreciate the broad political support for a domestic ivory trade ban.”
The news from Belgium comes as Member State experts are due to meet on 27th March to discuss the future of the EU ivory market, and adds further momentum to efforts to ban the trade across the European Union.
“The EU Commission and Member States have been lagging behind for far too long. They finally need to act and play their part in closing the domestic EU ivory market once and for all if we are to show leadership and save elephants”, said Daniela Freyer of Pro Wildlife.
„Elephants continue to endure a decade-long crisis due to ivory poaching. Populations are thought to be falling by about 8% annually and at least 20,000 African elephants continue to be killed each year. The 32 African countries, who are members of the African Elephant Coalition, 165 scientists from 33 countries worldwide including from within 13 EU Member States, the European Parliament, a large number of NGOs and millions of members of the public have long been calling on the EU to issue a comprehensive ban“, said Mark Jones, Head of Policy at the Born Free Foundation.
“The EU is an important transit hub, consumer market and major exporter of ivory. Legalised ivory trade within and out of the EU legitimises ivory as a desirable product to trade and provides a cover for laundering illegal ivory. Legal markets, whether in the EU or Asia, fuel demand for poached ivory in Asia and undermine global efforts to close ivory markets”, said Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency-UK.
Although the international trade in ivory was prohibited in 1990, the EU still permits trade in ivory imported before this date. The results of a public consultation released by the EU Commission at the end of 2018 show that more than 90% of the 90,000 respondents support an EU ivory trade ban. Despite promising to take action on its ivory market since 2016, so far the EU has only called on Member States to end exports of raw ivory. It continues to permit trade between EU Member States, as well as exports of some worked ivory, including to Asia where the illegal ivory trade continues. For “antique” ivory acquired before 1947, the EU does not even require permits or evidence of legal acquisition. These loopholes are used to launder ivory from illegally poached elephants into the legal trade.
„The global ivory trade involves transnational, organised crime networks, risks the lives of rangers who are injured or killed while protecting wildlife, and damages communities and the economies of developing countries“, says Charlotte Nithart from Robin des Bois.
“The EU needs to establish a ban which is meaningful and effective by only allowing minimum and tightly-worded exemptions for accredited museums, musical instruments and antique items containing small amounts of ivory”, said Ilaria Di Silvestre of Eurogroup for Animals.
A major international meeting of world governments will take place in Sri Lanka in May 2019 where the issue of closure of domestic ivory markets will be discussed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). „The EU is rightfully perceived as a global leader on biodiversity conservation and has a critical role to play in ending the ivory trade once and for all. Failure to end this pernicious trade will come under the international spotlight at the upcoming CITES conference in Sri Lanka, where the EU risks being seen as falling behind the curve. We urge all EU Member States to join with China, the UK, the US, and the majority of African elephant range countries, and take urgent action to close their domestic ivory markets“, said Vera Weber of the Franz Weber Foundation.