Australia to ban local ivory and rhino horn trade amid concerns it legitimises illegal poaching

Aug 22, 2019 | News

By ABC News

Australia will ban the domestic trade of ivory and rhino horn, with state and territory environment ministers to discuss how to enforce the outlaw the market later this year.

In September last year, Parliament’s law enforcement committee recommended the ban with exemptions for some antiques and pianos with ivory keys made before the 1970s. 

Advocates for outlawing the trade have suggested Australia’s acceptance of domestic ivory and rhino horn sales has fuelled the poaching of endangered elephant and rhinoceros species overseas, concerned local buyers view products sold in Australia as legitimate. 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said it was difficult to assess just how much the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horn was worth each year, but the broader illegal wildlife market was worth up to $US23 billion a year. The International Fund for Animal Welfare told the committee 20,000 to 50,000 elephants were being killed for their ivory each year, while more than 1,000 rhinos were killed for their horns in 2017.

Australian delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) announced Australia’s commitment at its 18th summit in Geneva. “Australia has already ensured that all our international trade is in strict compliance with CITES regulations,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley 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.”

Ms Ley said she would meet with state and territory environment ministers in November, to figure out how the ban would be implemented and when it would come in to force. Other details, including what products may be exempt, also still needs to be settled.

The parliamentary committee investigating the ivory and rhino horn trade in Australia made 10 recommendations on how to end the trade and enforce bans, including looking to how the United Kingdom has prohibited items being bought and sold.

Among the exemptions suggested by the committee were musical instruments made before 1975 with less than 20 per cent ivory or rhino horn content, and special provisions for art institutions.

The Coalition and Labor both made election commitments to end the trade if they won government, with then opposition leader Bill Shorten arguing it would help the international efforts to save the “iconic species for future generations, before it is too late”.

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