Belgium Calls for EU Ban on Exporting Ivory

Monday, 9 March, 2015
Brussels, Belgium

Marie Christine Marghem, Belgian Minister for Energy, the Environment and Sustainable Development has called for EU action to ban the export of ivory from all EU member states. The bold call comes as an auction house in France has suggested that buyers can circumvent the domestic ban on raw ivory exports by sending ivory to China through Belgium.

“We’ve seen strong language and action from France, the UK, Sweden and Germany in banning exports of ivory,” said IFAW EU Regional Director Sonja Van Tichelen. “But the impact of these bans is limited if exporters can simply head to another EU country. Belgian Minister Marghem is absolutely right when she says that we need collective EU action to take a bite out of the ivory trade.”

Current rules allow for the export of ivory that entered the EU prior to 1947. The legal trade in ivory often hides an illegal trade of ivory that is disguised or misrepresented as antique ivory. Closing the loophole would make it easier for customs officials to stop all ivory trade going through the EU and reduce the pressure on elephants still living in the wild.

“The European Commission is currently looking at unveiling an EU Action Plan to tackle Wildlife Crime. With an elephant being killed every 15 minutes for its ivory it is vital that this Action Plan be rolled out as quickly as possible,” said Van Tichelen. “The EU is one of the largest markets for wildlife products globally and is an important transit point for ivory going from Africa to Asia. The EU must do its part to end the destruction of some of the world’s most charismatic and biologically important species such as elephants and rhinos.”

A recent report commissioned by the EU states that “trade data clearly show that [applications for] commercial re-exports of ivory…have increased in recent years across several EU MS. Of particular concern are increasing re-exports of raw ivory, primarily in the form of tusks but also ivory pieces.”

As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fourth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. Up to 35,000 elephants lose their lives to poaching for their ivory each year.

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold.” Availability of legal ivory in China purchased from the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs.

The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW’s digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade

About IFAW

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. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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