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UK Bans Ivory Imports from Hippos, Orcas, and Walruses to Protect Endangered Species

The UK government has taken a significant step in protecting endangered species by extending the ban on ivory imports. The Ivory Act, which was passed in 2018, initially focused on materials derived from elephants. However, a loophole allowed the targeting of other animals such as hippos for their ivory. After careful consideration and consultation, ministers have decided to close this loophole and include all ivory-bearing species under the ban. This move aims to prevent the poaching of hippos, orcas, and walruses to fill the void left by the elephant ivory ban.

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UK Bans Ivory Imports

In a significant move to protect endangered species, the UK government is expanding its ivory ban to include additional animals such as hippos, orcas, walruses, narwhals, and sperm whales. The existing Ivory Act of 2018, which primarily targeted materials from elephants, will now close the legal loophole that allowed the trade of ivory from non-elephant species.

This decision comes after a consultation process and aims to prevent the exploitation of these animals for their ivory, safeguarding their long-term survival and mitigating the threats posed by the climate crisis. The ban demonstrates the UK’s commitment to global leadership in conservation and the protection of endangered species.

The Role of Ivory and Its Use

Ivory is a sought-after material used in various industries, including ornaments, musical instruments, and jewelry. The ban on ivory imports aims to disrupt the illegal trade that exploits endangered species for their tusks and teeth. Ivory primarily consists of dentine, a physical structure found in teeth and tusks. By implementing stricter regulations and closing the legal loopholes, the UK government aims to reduce the demand for ivory and protect the world’s wildlife.

Closing the Loophole and Protecting Vulnerable Species

The Ivory Act of 2018 was instrumental in addressing the trade of elephant ivory, but it inadvertently left a loophole that allowed the targeting of other animals for their ivory, including hippos. Recognizing the urgent need to protect these species, the UK government has decided to extend the ban to cover all ivory-bearing species. The decision is based on the understanding that hippos are particularly vulnerable to the ivory trade after elephants, and the other species are already threatened by the climate crisis. By including these animals in the ban, the government aims to prevent their exploitation and reduce the overall demand for ivory.

Among the species affected by the ivory trade, hippos are particularly at risk. Ministers have identified hippos as the species most vulnerable to the trade in ivory after elephants. The illegal trade in hippo ivory poses a significant threat to their survival, especially when combined with the challenges they already face due to the climate crisis. By including hippos under the ban, the government aims to protect these animals from further exploitation and ensure their long-term survival.

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The Ivory Ban and its Challenges

The Ivory Act of 2018, regarded as one of the toughest bans of its kind in the world, faced considerable challenges, including legal battles initiated by antique traders. Despite the obstacles, the government’s commitment to protecting endangered species prevailed. Trudy Harrison, the biodiversity minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), emphasized that the extension of legal protections to these five additional species sends a clear message that the commercial trade of ivory is entirely unacceptable. The UK’s leadership in conservation and its implementation of the ban demonstrate the country’s dedication to safeguarding the world’s most endangered species.

Government’s Commitment

Trudy Harrison, the biodiversity minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), emphasized the significance of this decision. She stated that extending legal protections to include additional species demonstrates the UK’s commitment to international conservation efforts. The Ivory Act is already considered one of the toughest bans of its kind globally, and this extension reinforces the government’s strong stance against the commercial trade of ivory. By taking this step, the UK continues to lead in conservation and protect the world’s most endangered species.

Ivory Trade and its Impact

Ivory, sought after for its use in ornaments, musical instruments, and jewelry, among other items, drives a global market that fuels poaching and endangers numerous species. The ban on ivory trade is crucial in curbing the illegal exploitation of animals and protecting their habitats. The decision to extend the ban to hippos, orcas, walruses, narwhals, and sperm whales aims to address the unnecessary demand for luxury ivory products and disrupt the damaging trade. The ban will play a pivotal role in conserving these species and reinforcing international commitments to safeguard our natural world.

Support for the Ban

The ban on ivory from non-elephant species has garnered support from various charities and organizations working towards wildlife conservation. Frances Goodrum, head of campaigns and programs at the International Fund for Animal Welfare UK (IFAW), welcomes the decision and acknowledges its potential to crack down on the damaging trade. Early indications suggest that the ban on elephant ivory has already made a significant impact, and extending the ban to include additional species further strengthens conservation efforts. The decision marks a positive step towards safeguarding our natural world and aligning with global commitments.

Impact on Wildlife

The ban on ivory imports from hippos, orcas, and walruses has been welcomed by conservation organizations. Charities like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have expressed their support for the government’s decision. They believe that extending the ban will have a significant impact on curbing the trade in ivory and protecting these vulnerable species. The IFAW sees this as a positive step towards meeting international commitments to safeguard the natural world. The ban sends a clear message that the trade in ivory, regardless of the species, is unacceptable.

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Concerns and Counterarguments

While the extended ban is applauded by environmentalists and the general public, antique dealers who trade in ivory-containing items have expressed concerns about the impact on their businesses. Some argue that antique items made from non-elephant ivory have historical and cultural value and should be exempt from the ban. They fear that the extended ban may lead to the loss of important artifacts and traditional crafts such as scrimshaw art, which involves intricate carvings on whale ivory.

In response to these concerns, the UK government has emphasized that the ban is not intended to target legitimate antiques or cultural artifacts. Strict exemptions will be in place to allow the trade and possession of items that meet certain criteria, including age and provenance. The government recognizes the need to balance conservation efforts with preserving cultural heritage.

Furthermore, alternatives to ivory, such as synthetic materials and sustainable substitutes, are increasingly being explored by artists and craftsmen. These alternatives not only reduce the demand for ivory but also provide creative and ethical options for artisans to continue their craft without contributing to the exploitation of endangered species.

Enforcing the Extended Ban and International Collaboration

Ensuring effective enforcement of the extended ivory ban is crucial to its success. The UK government is committed to working closely with law enforcement agencies, border control, and international partners to prevent the illegal trade of ivory. By sharing intelligence, coordinating efforts, and implementing strict penalties for offenders, the government aims to create a strong deterrent against wildlife trafficking and protect vulnerable species globally.

The extended ban also serves as a call to action for other countries to strengthen their own regulations on ivory trade. International collaboration is essential in combating this transnational issue and promoting the conservation of endangered species on a global scale. The UK government will continue to advocate for stronger measures at international forums and encourage other nations to follow suit.


The UK government’s decision to extend the ivory ban to include additional species such as hippos, orcas, walruses, narwhals, and sperm whales marks a significant step in protecting endangered animals and combating the devastating ivory trade. By closing the legal loophole and reinforcing the ban, the government demonstrates its commitment to conservation and the long-term survival of these species.

While concerns from antique dealers exist, the government has assured that legitimate antiques and cultural artifacts will be exempt, and efforts to promote alternatives to ivory are underway. With strong enforcement and international collaboration, the extended ban sets an example for other countries to prioritize wildlife protection and work together to preserve our natural heritage for generations to come.

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