UK Ban on Ivory Sales

On the 23 May 2018 the Government introduced a bill that once passed will ban ivory sales in the UK. The bill follows the Government's response to it's consultation on the matter that was published in 3 April 2018. They believe tighter controls on trading ivory will go some way to curtailing the demise of the elephants.

Nobody can deny that every measure should be taken to help protect the dwindling population of elephants, one of the most majestic animals on the planet. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) figures state that since 2006 the total number of elephants in Africa has decreased by 21%, primarily due to poaching.

The ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not just those produced after a certain date however there will be exemptions including:

  • Items comprised of less than 10% ivory by volume and were made before 1947.
  • Musical instruments that have less than 20% ivory content and were made prior to 1975 (when Asian elephants were added to CITES).
  • Portrait miniatures painted on thin slivers of ivory and which are at least 100 years old.
  • Rarest and most important items of their type. Items must be at least 100 years old and be assessed by specialist institutions before exemption permits are issued.
  • Museums. Commercial activities to, and between, museums which are accredited by Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, Museums and Galleries Scotland or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or the International Council of Museums for museums outside the UK.

By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK’s ban will be one of the toughest in the world. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail. However primary legislation is needed before these changes can come into force.

On 4 July 2018 the Government announced that it will consult on extending the scope of the Ivory Bill. Items made from animals that are listed as 'vulnerable' to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, may be included in the Bill following the consultation. An amendment to the Bill has also been brought forward to include ivory from all animals, and not just those protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Government has also clarified that pre-1918 portrait miniatures must have a visible surface area of less than 320 square centimetres to be exempt. 

At the introduction of the Bill Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP said:

“Elephants are one of the world’s most iconic animals and we must do all we can to protect them for future generations. That’s why we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales. The overwhelmingly positive response to our consultation shows the strength of public feeling to protect these magnificent animals.

"We have acted quickly in introducing this Bill, less than six weeks after publishing our consultation responses. I hope this serves as a clear sign of our global leadership on this vital issue.”

Mark Hayward

Mark Hayward

Chief Executive

“The Government are clear through the introduction of the Ivory Bill of their intentions to conserve elephant populations. Our members remain concerned about unscrupulous traders and believe that effective enforcement is the only way to discourage poaching. Now that the Bill has been published we will be supporting our members to understand the implications and timescales of the ban.””

The Consultation

On the 6 October 2017 Defra opened a consultation seeking views on banning UK sales of Ivory and they are looking for evidence of the effect this change might have. There were more than 70,000 responses to the consultation, with over 88 percent of responses in favour of the ban.

In our response, we argued that the Government’s focus should be on enforcing current legislation and closing any loopholes that currently allow illegal trade to continue instead of moving forward with a total ban on all ivory sales. With the proper controls in place and increased checks to improve enforcement the illicit trade of ivory would be reduced which in turn would discourage poaching, which continues to decimate elephant populations.

Mark Hayward

Mark Hayward

Chief Executive

“We welcome the publication of the consultation and look forward to engaging with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Government has stated that they will work with the antiques sector during the consultation to understand issues, set out definitions and look at exemptions.”

Border Force Amnesty Scheme

ivory submissions

We've partnered with Border Force on an initiative to remove endangered species items which lack provenance from circulation in a responsible manner.

Participation in the scheme demonstrates that you fully support the various initiatives in the UK and worldwide to preserve elephants and other endangered wildlife. The scheme is designed to remove items that are made from or include ivory or other endangered species material such as rhinoceros horn or tortoiseshell (marine turtle). With a focus on the items that cannot legally be sold.

Unscrupulous traders buy or otherwise obtain, ivory items (including broken or other unsaleable items) and illegally export them to countries where they can be reworked and sold on for profit. This scheme ensures this cannot happen and provides you with a receipt for your records just in case your client comes back later asking about the object.

Border Force is happy to accept most items including unworked elephant tusks but they would prefer that you do not send large pieces of furniture or pianos. If you have a large object where the ivory or other material can be removed easily, for example, inlays or piano key flats, they will accept the removed elements.

If you are unsure about an item (or have a question about a CITES matter) please feel free to contact the Border Force CITES Team and they’ll be happy to advise you.

How it works

Download the form, fill it in and send it together with the items you wish to dispose of to the Border Force CITES Team (the address is on the form). If you have more items than can be listed on one form, please complete another form for the extra items.

In return Border Force will send you a letter with a legal notice. Don’t panic - you do not have to do anything with it (unless for some reason you wanted any of the items to be returned to you). Then, a month later you will receive a further Notice of Seizure for your records and the matter is concluded.

Although Border Force are required to record the matter you will not be recorded as having committed any offence, in fact you will be recorded as having made a worthwhile contribution to conservation.

Download the form

Pictured - First three scheme submissions from NAVA Propertymark salerooms