Is the EU doing enough to shut down the ivory trade?

It’s estimated that as many as 30,000 elephants are killed every year for their tusks. Between 2007 and 2014, the total population of elephants fell by a third. Recent efforts for better law enforcement has meant the price of ivory falling by nearly half, and elephants being much less attractive to poachers. In some parts of Tanzania, poaching was down by 55% in 2016 compared to the previous year. In Kenya, the numbers were down to 46 last year, compared to 390 in 2015.

However, the EU still hasn’t managed to completely shut down its ivory trade. The market in Europe is thought to be worth billions, and although it’s illegal to sell new ivory, it’s still allowed to be sold as long as the sellers claim it as an “antique”. Law enforcement agencies also admit that it’s difficult to enforce the law. It’s well known that it’s hard to determine the age of ivory products, resulting in a booming illegal market.

Under the current laws, the bloc has banned the export of new ivory. the UK and France has both called on the EU to go further and ban internal trading as well. British foreign secretary recently described the issue as a “personal priority”.. According to EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, Europe is “leading the fight for the survival of the African elephant.” And although progress has been made in recent years, it’s still fragile and Europe is seen as a key ally in ending the trade globally.

At the Giants Club summit, presidents of Uganda, Gabon and Botswana has all urged the EU to close down its internal markets and help work towards a global ban. During the conference, the EU announced a further  €1.5m of funding to the law enforcement team across Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe with the hope that it will cut poaching by half in the next three years.

Botswana’s environment minister, Tshekedi Khama said: “If the EU gives us money to train rangers but still allows the exit of the trophies to the EU, that to me is a hypocrisy. Let’s stop the flowery approach, that says: ‘I’ve ticked a box and I look good. I’ve given so much, but I’m still allowing you African range states to be challenged by poachers because I haven’t closed the European gates.”


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