The British Government has outlined a proposal to ban the selling and exporting of ivory products of all ages. Environment Minister Michael Gove hopes the plan will help protect elephants from poachers by removing the incentives to collect the ivory and sell it for the highest possible price.
In a statement, Mr Gove said: "The decline in the elephant population, fuelled by poaching for ivory, shames our generation. The need for radical and 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 - so we want to ban its sale.
"These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory."
Credit: Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
There will be some exemptions from the ban, which extend to ivory that is used in musical instruments, items sold between museums and objects deemed culturally, historically or artistically significant.
The Government says it will be working with groups to carefully outline parameters so that no one can take advantage of loopholes. That consultation period will last for 12 weeks before a decision is made.
Under current law, it's possible to buy any ivory products made after 1947 as long as it has a certificate. Anything created before that date is allowed to be sold and traded with no restrictions - however, these new rules are expected to tighten that arm of legislation.
Stop Ivory's chief executive, John Stephenson said: "By starting the process to bring in a total ban on ivory sales in the UK, the government continues to work with the African countries leading the Elephant Protection Initiative to secure a meaningful future for elephants across Africa - the initiative the government helped launch at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in 2014.
"The unprecedented crisis we face - with Africa's natural heritage being destroyed and communities put at risk due to poaching by illegal armed gangs - will only stop when people stop buying ivory."
An Environmental Investigation Agency report found there were more than 36,000 items exported from the UK between 2010 to 2015. EIA Executive Director Mary Rice said: "UK ivory exports are stimulating consumer demand globally - especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the world's largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory, even as the Government of China works towards closing its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017."