The fight against the global ivory trade is gaining more ground, with the UK extending its ban to include five additional species. The Ivory Act 2018, which was first enacted to protect elephants, will now safeguard the tusks of hippopotamuses, killer whales, narwhals, sperm whales, and walruses from the detrimental effects of poaching.
Despite the global hippo population being estimated at 115-130,000 across sub-Saharan Africa, a startling report by the wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC suggests that an average of 1,349 hippos were targeted for their ivory annually between 2009 and 2018. Animal welfare groups have voiced particular concern for these extraordinary creatures, which are now even more vulnerable since the ban on elephant ivory began to show positive effects in the UK.
Statistics released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reveal a promising 66 percent decrease in the number of adverts selling elephant ivory in the UK since June 2022. This indicates the previous ban is making strides, yet unfortunately, it has exacerbated the risk for other species.
Frances Goodrum, IFAW UK’s Head of Campaigns and Programmes, warned of the increased threat to hippos and stated, “This extension of the legislation is another step forward to making ivory a taboo, and more importantly, a crime.”
Despite this, the battle for complete protection remains. Hippos, listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), are still subject to regulated commercial activity. A proposal for a full ban presented at the 2022 CITES conference failed to pass, leaving the need for continued advocacy and policy change in the pursuit of global wildlife conservation.
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