EU must outlaw ivory trade before laxity derails other bans

Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.

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Natural Resources Defense Council Beijing Office, Beijing, China.

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As the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) approaches, China and its allies in elephant conservation urge the European Union to enact a strict domestic ban on ivory trading. The EU’s current proposal merely to restrict trade could derail other hard-won bans across the globe (see L. Zhang Nature 527, 135; 2015 and

China and the United States — formerly two of the world’s largest ivory markets — imposed domestic ivory bans in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Many other countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Luxembourg, followed.

More than half of EU member states report significant seizures of elephant ivory. Trading and processing of uncarved ivory is still permitted in the EU, and artificially aged or carved ivory items are being legally exported to Asia and elsewhere as ‘antiques’. This gross laxity is perpetuating illegal trading worldwide.

The EU could introduce a phasing-out period of a few months for selling raw ivory, as China did, and exempt trading in musical instruments and to accredited museums, for example.

Nature 569, 336 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01531-w
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