Hippo Set To Receive Enhanced Protection Under the UK Ivory Act

Hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal, orca and sperm whale are set to be protected under the UK Ivory Act extension, following an update earlier this week by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Hippo in the reed beds by Tsavo West.

As we approach the first anniversary of the UK Ivory Act’s implementation, Tusk welcomes the news that five endangered CITES-listed species are set to receive greater legal protection.

The UK Ivory Act 2018  has some of the toughest enforcement measures in Europe and is one of the strictest in the world. Individuals found in breach of the ban can face up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine.

A notable extension of the ban is that afforded to hippo. Between 2009-2018, parts from an estimated 13,909 individual hippos (over 10% of the entire African population) were legally traded. The legal trade in hippo parts and products, particularly teeth which are then used for carving artwork is extensive and cheaper than elephant ivory. Hippos are also targeted for bushmeat and with a very low reproductive output, hippo populations are vulnerable.  

This extension into the UK Ivory Act is a marked step towards a sustainable future for Africa’s hippo. Speaking of the Act’s extension, DEFRA Environment Minister Trudy Harrison commented; “This is a pivotal moment in delivering one of our key manifesto commitments on international conservation.

“The Ivory Act is one of the toughest bans of its kind in the world and by extending greater legal protections to five more species, we are sending a clear message the commercial trade of ivory is totally unacceptable.

“The UK has long led the way in conservation and our ban shows continued global leadership in doing all we can to protect the world’s most endangered species.”

However the latest news has also drawn attention to the 6,500+ registrations and certificates issued in the last year for the trade of exempted items for reasons of artistic and cultural heritage, highlighting that whilst the ban is in place there is still a considerable amount of elephant ivory being imported, exported and traded within the UK.

Furthermore Tusk urges the UK government to demonstrate leadership beyond its own domestic ivory ban by continuing to call on the international community to prioritise the conservation of ivory-bearing species by strictly implementing the extended Ivory Act and ensuring that any remaining loopholes are swiftly closed. 

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