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Environment

Britain Exports the Most Ivory in the World: Report

Flickr/Karin Lewis (Bookatz)

Saturday is World Elephant Day, a day meant to celebrate these beautiful animals and ensure their protection and preservation.

But this World Elephant Day adds to the distressing news that has marked the holiday for years.

The UK is reportedly the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

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Selling 370% more ivory than the US, the world’s second highest ivory exporter, the UK has come under fire for its involvement in a devastating trade practice.

Not only did the UK export far more than the US, between 2010 and 2015 they exported more ivory than the next four biggest ivory exporting countries combined.

An estimated 100 African elephants are killed everyday due to a rise in poaching, and only 400,000 remain. Despite conservation efforts, more elephants are being killed than are being born, as of 2017.

Poaching, a primary threat against elephants, is often linked to poverty. For instance, a recent study found that in elephant countries where poaching is high, higher rates of poverty and child mortality are also found. Global Citizen campaigns to end extreme poverty around the world. 

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“As well as fuelling demand for ivory, the UK’s legal trade provides opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory, both within the country and internationally,” said Mary Rice, the executive director of the EIA.

It is also reported that the UK exported more ivory than any other nation to Hong Kong and China, which are thriving smuggling hubs for legal and illegal ivory trade.

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“This huge amount of trade going through the UK shames us all,” Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP, told The Guardian.“It creates and sustains a market that needs to be shut down.”

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Theresa May dropped a pledge that would have completely banned ivory trading within the UK last year.

Current international law allows the UK to trade ivory procured prior to 1976. The abandoned pledge would have eliminated even this form of ivory trade.

Critics speculate May dropped the pledge as it would have lowered profits for the British Antique Dealers’ Association, an organization with members who helped May’s campaign.

Last month, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, spoke in favor of the pledge; giving conservationists hope it may make a rebound.

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The EIA report and May dropping the pledge are especially controversial considering the UK is set to host an international conference on halting illegal wildlife trade next year and committed £13 million to the cause.

Over the last decade, elephant populations have dropped by 62%, and within the next decade they could be extinct.

Bearder warns that the government must understand elephants are in crisis, and, without protection, their extinction will be certain.

“On our watch, we could see the extinction of the majority of elephants in most of their range countries,” she said. “We have to stand up and say that this is not acceptable.”