EU further restricts ivory trade

Status: 11.01.2022 11:13 a.m.

New rules for the sale of ivory have come into force in the EU. The import and trade bans have been extended to limit the exemptions for old ivory.

By Holger Beckmann, ARD-Studio Brussels

It was the largest find of illegally traded ivory ever made in Germany – and one of the largest in all of Europe: What customs authorities and border guards found at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport at the end of 2020 shocked animal rights activists all over the world. Because actually the trade in ivory has been outlawed internationally for decades. At least that is true when it comes to fresh elephant tusks. But the ban is being circumvented on a large scale again and again. The so-called white gold is particularly popular in Asian countries.

Holger Beckmann
ARD studio Brussels

“Above all, tusks of various sizes were found, from young elephants, from old elephants, from really capital elephant bulls,” said Arnulf Köhnke from the World Wide Fund for Nature after the spectacular find at the end of 2020. “Instruments were also found – saws, milling machines and the like – which were used to process ivory, in other words to produce carvings, beads, figures and the like from raw ivory.”

Up to 1000 euros per kilogram

The fact is that ivory is still illegally traded and has top prices on the black market. There is talk of 350 to 1000 euros per kilogram – also in Europe. The continent is very likely an important market for ivory, which supports poaching, says David Chivall, archaeologist and wildlife activist at Oxford University.

The fact is that elephants with tusks are still hunted and that the pachyderms are therefore still seriously threatened. Environmentalists have long denounced that this is an untenable situation. The European Union in particular, as a community that has also committed itself to protecting the planet and its animal species, must therefore do more to counteract it.

“54 elephants are still killed in the world every day – because of their tusks,” says Bert Wander of the non-governmental organization Avaaz. “If we don’t change that, then we will only be able to tell our grandchildren that these wonderful animals once existed. Nobody can want that.”

The trade in products made from ivory is now only allowed in the EU if the products are more than 75 years old.

Bild: picture alliance/dpa

EU responds to growing pressure

Even if the number given by Wander is an estimate: The growing pressure from animal and environmental protectionists has led the EU to tighten the applicable ivory rules again: While trade and import of tusk material from the period after 1990 are already banned without exception older ivory can still be launched on the market and in some cases also be introduced with special permits. From now on, this is only possible if items made of ivory date from before 1947. For musical instruments, 1975 is the age limit.

Daniela Freyer from ProWildlife welcomes the tightening. But she still sees gaps. The problem is “that an exact age determination and thus also the proof of the legality of the ivory is very difficult. That means: This offers enormous possibilities for fraud and abuse.” Customs authorities will therefore have to remain vigilant in the future in order to track down illegal ivory in the EU.

EU tightened rules for ivory trade

Holger Beckmann, ARD Brussels, 10.1.2022 5:51 p.m.

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