Rhino Horn and Ivory Trade Ban: France is almost exemplary

Rhino Horn and Ivory Trade Ban: France is almost exemplary
Wednesday, 17 August, 2016
Reims, France

Although her speech in Nairobi heralded a total  ivory trade ban in France, a more toned down version has just been published in the decree issued jointly by Ségolène Royal, Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Marine Affairs, and Stéphane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture, Agrifood, and Forestry.

Instead of a total ban, this decree contains exemptions allowing strictly regulated trade of carved rhinoceros horns and ivory objects that date before July 1, 1975, when CITES entered into force.

IFAW is wondering how—without systematic dating analyses or experts specialized in distinguishing 19th-century ivory from 20th-century ivory—it will be possible to certify with absolute certainty that an ivory object for sale dates back to before July 1, 1975.

“Although the Minister has taken a major step forward by banning trade in uncarved rhinoceros horns and ivory, it is unfortunate that a non-negligible amount of carved horns and ivory can still be sold through a system of exceptions,” says Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director of IFAW France and Francophone Africa. “The Minister has strayed away from the total ban announced in Kenya. France was a hairs’ breadth away from setting the example.” 

During the largest ever destruction of illegal ivory (105 tons) which took place in Nairobi on 30 April 2016, Ségolène Royal rose to the occasion with the announcement that she would put in place a total ivory trade ban in France and that she was committed to convincing her European colleagues to restrict ivory trade at the European level. 

Nearly a third of all ivory seizures worldwide take place in Europe, and France remains one of the major points of transit. It therefore also has a part of the responsibility for the persisting demand (particularly in Asia) for white gold. For example, in July 2015, IFAW revealed that within just two months, no less than two tons of ivory were put up for sale in auction houses in France. In Wanted: Dead or Alive (published in November 2014), IFAW pointed out that during a six-week investigation of French e-commerce sites, 446 genuine or suspected offers to sell ivory had been identified.

“The survival of current elephant populations depends on our ability to shut down all existing ivory markets. Ivory is not vital to humans; it is to elephants,” concludes Céline Sissler-Bienvenu.

A survey conducted in June 2015 by the French market research firm Ifop for IFAW revealed that three-quarters of French people were in favor of a total ban on the sale of ivory in France.

Most of the contraband ivory is destined for Asia—especially China—where this highly coveted “white gold” has seen its value as an investment vehicle rise considerably.

Note to Editors:

This announcement comes on the heels of several key decisions by the French government:

  • The ban on raw ivory exports to other countries
  • The call on EU member states to ban raw ivory exports following in the footsteps of Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom
  • Increased cooperation between the Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Marine Affairs and Customs in order to increase the effectiveness of the fight against the trafficking of endangered species

Moreover, the biodiversity bill that has just been adopted in Parliament includes more severe fines for wildlife traffickers, increasing them from €15,000 to €150,000 for individuals and from €150,000 to €750,000 for organized groups.

In its report Criminal Nature with a preface by Nicolas Hulot (then special envoy of the President of the Republic for the protection of the planet) and Laurent Fabius (then Foreign Minister), IFAW evokes the threat that trafficking represents not only to animals, such as elephants and rhinos, but also to humans.


About IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. High Resolution photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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