Illegal ivory is being openly sold across the European Union, according to a report by the campaign group Avaaz. The report, which was published on Tuesday, claimed that the legal trade is covering up the illegal trade through an antique ivory loophole, and illegal pieces are being sold openly both online and in shops across the continent.
An antique ivory loophole has allowed illegal pieces to be sold as ‘antiques’ as no proof of age is required for antique ivory that predates 1947.
For the study, Avaaz bought 109 pieces of ‘antique’ ivory from 10 EU countries, and had them tested using radiocarbon dating at Britain’s Oxford University. The items were bought over a four-month period from Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Britain.
The results found that at least one-fifth of the pieces came from elephants that were poached and slaughtered after the global ivory trade was banned in 1990, and three-quarters of the ivory were fake antiques and dated much later than 1947 – none of the ivory pieces they bought came with a certificate.
Under the EU’s rules, the legal trade in antique ivory items acquired before 1947 is allowed (with no legal requirement to provide proof of age), and all ivory acquired after 1947 and before 1990 must be sold with a certificate issued by the relevant member state.
“This bombshell evidence proves beyond doubt that illegal ivory is being sold across Europe,” Avaaz campaign director Bert Wander said in a statement. “It must spark the end of this bloody trade. Every day the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever,” he added.
The new evidence puts pressure on the EU to ban the trade outright because so many pieces are being passed off as ‘antique’ ivory from elephants killed before 1947.
“The Commission should close the antique ivory loophole, end ivory exports from Europe and shut down the EU’s internal trade in raw tusks,” Avaaz said.
“This is the only way it can preserve its status as a leader in fighting the wildlife trade and protecting African elephants,” it added.
Full report: Avaaz: Europe’s Deadly Ivory Trade (2018)