Thank you for contacting me about the conservation of the elephant.
The decline in the elephant population, fuelled by poaching for ivory, shames our generation. The need for radical, robust action to protect one of the world's most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.
I am therefore pleased that Ivory Act 2018 will bring into force one of the world's toughest bans on ivory sales. The ban will cover items of all ages, not just those made after a certain date, and the maximum available penalty for breaching it will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison. I know that the ban will include certain narrowly-defined exemptions for items that do not contribute to poaching, where a ban would be unwarranted. By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK's ban will be one of the toughest in the world.
I would like to assure you that Ministers will soon be taking the next steps to implement the relevant secondary legislation, in line with the Government's recent consultation response. The response can be viewed here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1017266/implementing-ivory-act-2018-summary-of-responses-government-response.pdf.
The process of implementing the legislation is complicated due to the wide scope of the legislation. For example the Government recognises the unique difficulties that are presented by the certification of legal ivory products. The Government have already committed to a four month stay between the legislation taking effect and the closing of registration for products which are permissible under the Act. I understand that progress on implementation was further delayed by a legal challenge which the Government successfully defended. Ministers have also consulted on extending the Ivory Act to afford greater protections to a range of ivory-bearing species, and I look forward to reading the Government's official response once this has been published.
I am encouraged that, Defra has provided over £4.2 million in funding for Asian elephants living in the wild since 2015 through the Darwin Initiative and the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund. This includes funding towards a project seeking to reduce the illegal ivory trade in Cambodia, and a project supporting Nepal's world-leading community anti-poaching efforts.
The ban on ivory sales will build on work at home and overseas to tackle poaching and the illegal ivory trade. I was elected on a manifesto which committed to banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered species and ministers intend to implement this, as well as end the advertising for sale in the UK of low welfare experiences abroad, through the upcoming Animals Abroad Bill.
I understand that there is concern regarding the lack of an ivory surrender scheme. The Minister, Rebecca Pow MP, has gone on record to explain the situation in response to a Written Parliamentary Question. Her response is available here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-06-04/10641. I am reassured that there will be an awareness-raising campaign to ensure that no member of the public is innocently caught on the wrong side of the new legislative measures set out by the Ivory Act.
Banning ivory sales will reaffirm the UK's global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.