Europe should act on ivory hunting trophies

European countries should forge ahead and take whatever steps necessary to instigate their own full bans.China has announced a one-year ban on the import of African elephant ivory acquired as hunting trophies. The embargo begins immediately and continues until 15 October 2016. The decision is the latest in a series taken by China and aimed at ending illegal ivory trade.

Only three weeks ago, China and the United States announced a historic agreement to enact what were described “nearly complete bans on ivory imports and exports, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies” in their respective countries. Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Barack Obama of the United States promised to “take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.”

Europe is no stranger to the ivory issue.

Countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands have all pledged greater restrictions or bans on ivory.

But the EU has held back. However, following the introduction of the new Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/870 of 5 June 2015, European Member States finally agreed to put in place stricter criteria for the importation of trophies.

Trophy hunting should be part of a careful species management plan that should, as appropriate:

  • Be based on sound biological data collected from the target population(s);
  • Clearly demonstrate that harvest levels are sustainable;
  • Be monitored by professional biologists;
  • Be promptly modified if necessary to maintain the conservation aims;
  • Demonstrate that illegal activities are under control;
  • Produce significant and tangible conservation benefits for the species;
  • Provide benefits to, and be in co-operation with, the local people who share the area with or suffer by the species concerned;

It is a direct result of these new regulations that the EU CITES Scientific Review Group (SRG) recently gave negative opinions on the import of hunting trophies from Tanzania and Mozambique – a temporary ban in all but name.

However, this is only a small step when compared to the actions of China and the US. If the European Union continues to hold them back, European countries should forge ahead and take whatever steps necessary to instigate their own full bans.

China’s announcement is yet another concrete step to fulfil President Xi’s pledge to ban ivory trade in China and follows the introduction in February, of a one year ban on imports of African ivory carvings acquired after the establishment, in 1975, of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In an interview with Chinese news outlet,, an official from the State Forestry Administration of China said: “The series of actions taken by China, including an ivory crush and ivory import ban, will support demand reduction efforts through stigmatising ivory consumption.”

However, as IFAW’s Asia Regional Director, Grace Ge Gabriel, states, the ban must be extended beyond a year. Only by having clear and unequivocal laws banning ivory trade combined with vigorous enforcement and meaningful penalties can attach stigma to ivory trade, ultimately reduce demand.

The same holds true for Europe; if European countries are to support the Chinese in their efforts to stigmatise ivory consumption, then surely we must not provide their consumers with the excuse that “if the Europeans can, why can’t we?”

The momentum is with us, and European countries must act now.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
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Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy