UK Fights Back Against Elephant Poaching

by Cheyenne Johnson, Managing Editor

Britain is transitioning to become a world leader in the fight against elephant poaching. Environment Secretary Michael Gove has recently announced he’ll chair a new global initiative to crack down on ivory markets and improve legal efforts against elephant poachers and those who enable them.

Looking towards the future, the newly formed Ivory Alliance 2024 aims to reduce the illegal poaching of African elephants for ivory by a third by 2020 and to then halve the rate by 2024.

The UK already has what Grove called one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory trading, and citizens contribute £26 million to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, but these measures have not been enough to stop the poaching.

It’s estimated that 100 elephants are killed a day on average and Central Africa’s lost 64% of its elephant population in the last decade. The majority of these animals were killed for their ivory tusks, and reducing access to this market is a key part of the conservation strategy.

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) are supporting efforts to strengthen overseas security to prevent ivory from being plundered off of elephants who perished of natural causes or from government storerooms of illegal ivory.

The department also oversees the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund which provides support to projects tackling the illegal wildlife trade whether they’re in the UK or beyond it.

Even as his department spends £11 million protecting elephants, Environment Secretary Gove says it’s not enough.

“We must all do more to ensure the survival of these majestic animals for future generations. That’s why I am delighted to be chairing a new initiative, Ivory Alliance 2024, to bring countries together to close ivory markets and improve enforcement.

“This will form an important part of the discussions at the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference being held in London during October.

“The Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, alongside our introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales, shows our global leadership in protecting elephants in their natural environment.”

The Illegal Wildlife Trade summit in autumn will bring together leaders from around the world to discuss strategies and timelines for combating this global phenomenon. Even as the UK positions itself to be a leader in the movement, government officials from both sides of the aisle recognize the unified front needed to combat this crisis.

“The international community shares a common aim to end merciless poaching and criminal trading," said Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, "but now is the time to step up decisive action.”