- Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has proposed a total ban on the sale and purchase of all forms of elephant ivory products in Singapore.
- Display of elephant ivory in public would also be banned, except when used for educational purposes, such as in museums or zoos.
- AVA has opened its proposal to public comments until Dec. 27 this year.
The Singapore government has proposed a complete ban on the domestic trade of elephant ivory in the country.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the agency responsible for safeguarding animal and plant health in Singapore, announced Nov. 28 that the proposed ban, under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, would completely prohibit local businesses and individuals from selling or buying all forms of elephant ivory products in Singapore. Display of elephant ivory in public would also be banned, except when used for educational purposes, such as in museums or zoos. The proposal does not list any other exceptions. AVA has opened its proposal to public comments until Dec. 27 this year.
International trade in elephant ivory is banned — Asian elephants were placed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1975, while African elephants were added to the list in 1989, prohibiting all global trade in the species and their products. But the ban does not extend to domestic trade. Singapore, while a party to CITES, allows domestic sale and purchase of ivory that’s been proved to have been imported or acquired prior to the elephant species being placed in Appendix I of CITES. The proposed ban aims to put a complete stop to this local trade.
The proposal also plans to give stakeholders a three-year grace period during which they can decide what they want to do with their existing stocks of elephant ivory products. “Local businesses and individuals who own ivory can consider keeping, donating, or destroying the ivory,” the AVA said.
In recent years, some of the world’s major ivory markets, including China, Hong Kong and the U.K., have either enforced or announced domestic ivory bans. Singapore’s proposed total ban on domestic ivory trade is a step in the right direction, conservation groups say.
“This is welcome news after China implemented its domestic ban on ivory sales earlier this year and recently upheld its 25-year ban on rhino horn and tiger parts,” Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid, a U.S.-based environmental NGO, said in a statement. “With Singapore joining the global community in prohibiting ivory sales and thus doing its part to help alleviate the poaching crisis, Japan remains the last major ivory market that allows legal sales.”
Despite the international ban on ivory trade, elephant poaching for the illegal ivory trade continues unabated. Every year, an estimated 40,000 African elephants are killed by poachers to meet demand for ivory, mostly from East and Southeast Asia. Some have argued that the legal domestic trade keeps ivory demand alive, creating a cover for illegal trafficking.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement that Singapore’s proposed ban “makes no exceptions in the closure of the domestic ivory trade, placing it ahead of similar bans around the world.” But the group added that the ban could be made more “robust and stringent” with the inclusion of measures such as ensuring that retailers declare their inventories immediately, and suspending the issuance of import and export licenses for pre-CITES ivory. This would “ensure that the ban will not lead to stockpiling of new ivory or increased supply or demand in other countries,” WWF said.
The group also recommended increasing penalties for illegal wildlife and ivory traders, increasing inter-agency cooperation within Singapore, and reducing the grace period to one year instead of three.
Banner image of African elephants by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.