The great majority of ivory in the UK is worked ivory dating from the 18th to early 20th centuries and is from long-dead elephants. Banning the sale of antique, worked ivory in the UK will not make any difference to the market for new ivory in Asia, and hence the poaching of elephants, claims Richard Thomas, the official spokesman for Traffic, the most respected collectors and interpreters of data about the trade in ivory.

Thomas’s statement goes against the premise underlying the bill to ban the UK trade in ivory, which had its second reading in parliament on 4 June. The government is aiming to announce its enactment at a large international conference about the illegal wildlife trade, which the Foreign Office is hosting in October in London. It fulfils the promise made in the 2015 Conservative manifesto and is strongly supported by both Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Lobby groups such as Born Free, the World Wildlife Fund and 38 Degrees have campaigned hard for this law, with petitions online such as Avaaz’s Save the Elephants: Stop Bloody Ivory, which asked people “to reject any exemptions in the global ban on the ivory trade…to take all necessary steps to enforce that ban and protect the elephants”. This effective and emotive campaign had 430,000 signatures. Read more