The UK is taking a serious step to protect elephants and stop poachers – the country is about to ban the ivory trade. The new regulation includes the prohibition of sale and export of almost all items made out of ivory. The new ban comes as a tightening of the previous attempts that would have excluded antique ivory produced before 1947.

The consultation to end the trade in ivory items of all ages was announced by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, BBC reports. Although the ban is going to be significantly stricter than the previous legislation, there still will be some exemptions – for musical instruments, items of historic, artistic, or cultural value, items with a small proportion of ivory, and for sales between museums.

The government states that the proposals are driven by concern for the 20,000 elephants killed every year by poachers– a 12-week consultation on the pending law is going to start right away. “The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation,” Gove said in a statement. “The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute.”

Gove also underlined that the proposals will put the country “front and center of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory.” Draft legislation covering the ban is likely to be ready in the new year.

The UK is currently the world’s leading exporter of legal ivory carvings and antiques. On the other hand, the country has already introduced a ban on the trade in raw ivory tusks. According to an Environmental Investigation Agency report, more than 36,000 ivory items have been exported from the UK between 2010 and 2015 – that is more than three times the number distributed by the next biggest exporter, the U.S. These sales stimulate the demand for ivory products, conservationists point out – and so, cause increased elephant poaching in Africa.

The efforts to reduce demand for elephant ivory have seen some progress in the last year, starting with China announcing its ban on domestic trade by the end of 2017 in December 2016. In June 2017, Hong Kong, the largest city market for ivory, published its bill to ban the ivory trade by 2021. In October 2018, a major international conference on the illegal wildlife trade will be hosted by the UK.

With scientists estimating that African elephants could be extinct from the wild within the next 20 years if we don’t curb the ivory trade, this legislation (and many more like it) couldn’t come soon enough.

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