- Australia has formally announced a plan to ban its domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.
- Sussan Ley, the country’s environment minister, said she would meet with ministers in November to ensure that steps are taken to ban domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn all jurisdictions.
- At the ongoing CITES meeting, a coalition of 30 African elephant range countries tabled a proposal asking all domestic markets of ivory to be closed. But the proposal was voted down.
Australia will soon ban the domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. The country’s delegates announced the decision at the ongoing 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP18) in Geneva.
Asian elephants and most populations of African elephants are listed on Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits all global trade in the mammals and their products. The ban, however, does not apply to domestic trade. Many countries that are party to CITES have allowed their domestic ivory markets to operate as long as the ivory was imported or acquired before the species were listed in CITES. However, some conservation groups and experts have warned that these legal domestic markets end up serving as conduits for illegal ivory to be passed off as antiques, perpetuating demand for ivory, which then leads to more elephant poaching.
“Australia has already ensured that all our international trade is in strict compliance with CITES regulations,” Sussan Ley, Australia’s environment minister, said in a statement. “Australia’s domestic market does not represent a major threat to world ivory trade but it is important to ensure there are no back doors to encourage illegal activity by those seeking to circumvent CITES principles.”
Ley added she would meet with ministers in November to ensure steps are taken to ban the domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn in all jurisdictions.
In September 2018, a parliamentary committee set up to inquire into the ivory and rhino horn trade in Australia published a report noting that a frequent criticism of Australia’s domestic markets was the inadequate monitoring and regulation of the domestic trade. The report highlighted concerns that “if Australia fails to implement a domestic trade ban, actors involved in the illegal trade could move their operations to Australia to exploit its weaker control framework.”
Among its recommendations, the committee asked “that the Commonwealth, states and territories, through the Council of Australian Governments, develop and implement a national domestic trade ban on elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.” There could be some exemptions, the report noted, such as musical instruments made prior to 1975 and containing less than 20 percent ivory, and CITES-accredited museums and art institutions.
In recent years, countries like the U.S., China and U.K. have banned the domestic trade in elephant ivory. Domestic markets in many EU nations and Japan, however, still remain open.
At the ongoing CITES meeting, a coalition of 30 African elephant range countries tabled a proposal asking all domestic markets of ivory to be closed. The proposal was voted down. Instead, countries that are yet to close their domestic markets have been asked to report back on measures they plan on taking at the next CITES conference.
“Legal ivory markets and a lack of action against large illegal markets in certain countries continue to provide opportunities for criminal syndicates to traffic ivory,” Matt Collis, director of international policy at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and head of the organization’s delegation at CITES, said in a statement. “We urge countries whose legal domestic markets remain open, particularly Japan and the EU, to close them as a matter of urgency, and hope they will be in a position to report back on such steps at the next CITES conference.”
Banner image of an African elephant by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.