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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

The UK Ivory Act is upheld – but why we need to stay vigilant...

At first glance, the High Court in London, with its wigs, gowns and arcane traditions, would seem worlds away from the natural habitat of the African elephant, be it forest, desert or grassland. But a ruling by the High Court has served as a timely reminder of the importance of the law – be it national or international – in securing the future for elephants and other endangered species. So why was a court in the UK deliberating the welfare of elephants in Africa and Asia? It stemmed from a small group of antiques dealers who wanted to overturn the UK Ivory Act 2018. The Act, which garnered overwhelming popular support, will introduce what the government calls “one of the world’s toughest ivory bans to protect elephants for future generations”. The antiques dealers argued that sales of “cultural heritage” objects would have no impact on the market for illegally plundered tusks. They further argued that the ivory ban would undermine their human rights. The court disagreed – and upheld the act, to the jubilation of conservationists, including the EPI and its partners who had campaigned vigorously in support of the Act. Those who care about the wellbeing of elephants and other endangered wildlife must support good governance to secure their future. This is why the EPI Foundation is working with the Angolan authorities on a DEFRA-funded project to help law enforcement officials fight wildlife crime (see more below).  Let’s travel now to Harare where the Zimbabwe High Court had been considering the fate of 32 juvenile elephants earmarked for export to China, after being forcibly removed from their herds. Animal rights lawyers applied for a High Court injunction, arguing that the sale was illegal. However, as judges were mulling their decision, the animals were loaded onto an overnight cargo flight and transported to Shanghai.   Lawyers say this is a “technical breach” of a new clause in a CITES international wildlife trade agreement that prevents the export of African elephants from their natural ranges. The new rule comes into effect at the end of this month.   The elephants are now being held in a concrete pen where, according to video footage obtained by animal rights activists, they are showing signs of distress. With a strong legal framework and effective enforcement, we can progressively close loopholes and empower those on the frontline in the fight against poachers and traffickers.  

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