UK plan for near-total ban on ivory sales to tackle elephant poaching

The sale of almost all ivory could be banned by the Government in an effort to stop elephant poaching.

About 20,000 elephants are killed every year to feed the global ivory trade and, at this rate, they could be extinct in some countries within decades.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who is due to appear on Sky News Sunrise later, said the dire situation, made worse by ivory poaching, "shames our generation".

He added: "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."

Current rules allow "worked" or carved items made before 1947 to be sold in the UK while banning raw ivory.

But the new ban would also cover sales of the pre-1947 items. It would apply to exports and sales within the UK.

There would be exemptions for items such as pianos with ivory keys, items with historical value and sales to and between museums.

The UK would be following the US, which has already introduced a similar ban, while China and Hong Kong have promised to close their ivory markets.

Critics say that the UK's legal shipments of antiques to Asia is helping to supply the markets that drive poachers.

WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said stopping the decline in the elephant population was "about a lot more than banning ivory sales in one country".

She added: "It means working with global leaders and communities around the world, particularly in China and south east Asia, to implement bans and stop the illegal trade."

"Whilst discussions roll on, 55 African elephants a day are killed.

"We need to be the generation that ends the illegal ivory trade once and for all."