Open letter to David Cameron: ban UK ivory sales to save elephants from extinction

Cameron has not yet fulfilled his pledge from the Conservative election manifesto to “press for a total ban on ivory sales”

Daisy Fletcher
Monday 11 January 2016 15:47 GMT
789kg of smuggled elephant tusks at the Customs Department in Bangkok, Thailand, in December last year
789kg of smuggled elephant tusks at the Customs Department in Bangkok, Thailand, in December last year (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


An open letter has been written to David Cameron pressing for a total ban on ivory sales in the UK.

In the lead up to the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Standing Committee in Geneva, which takes place from the 11th-15th January, 26 conservation organisations have signed a letter to Cameron, asking for him to fulfil the pledge in the Conservative Party’s 2010 and 2015 election manifestos to “press for a total ban on ivory sales”.

The letter:

January 8, 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

In the lead up to the 66th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva from the 11th-15th January, we the undersigned 26 organisations, are writing to you to request that the UK government fulfils its pledge to “press for a total ban on ivory sales”, as stated in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto in 2010 and reiterated in its 2015 manifesto, and provide a timeframe for implementation and action.

As you are aware, Africa’s wildlife is in crisis, with the number of elephants lost to poaching higher than ever before, and with many other species being poached and trafficked in ever-escalating and unsustainable numbers. Recent estimates indicate that more than 100,000 elephants were illegally killed between 2010 and 2012, and elephant populations in many regions in Africa are in significant decline with some populations becoming extinct.

Given the remarkable leadership shown by the UK on the issue of illegal wildlife trade at a global level including, among other things, the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in 2014 (and the follow-up Conference in Botswana in 2015), support for the Elephant Protection Initiative, the considerable aid provided under the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and the government’s high-level support for United for Wildlife’s Transport Task Force, we urge that the same leadership be shown through action at a national level by ending all ivory trade in the UK. Any legal trade enables illegal trade in ivory, and undermines enforcement and demand-reduction efforts.

The world continues to look to the UK government to fulfil its commitment to end all ivory trade particularly as actions are increasingly being taken around the world to close domestic ivory markets including by China and the United States who have both declared their commitment to work together towards near total closure of their domestic ivory markets.

Moreover, China has challenged other countries to follow its lead in closing its domestic ivory markets and so action by the UK can only help strengthen China’s new resolve to help end the elephant poaching crisis.

Without your strong stance on this issue and your continued help, elephants will continue to perish and be pushed towards extinction.

We look forward to your reply and to providing assistance to your government in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Fearnhead, CEO, African Parks

Ian Redmond OBE, Founder, African Ele-Fund

Cynthia Moss, Director, Amboseli Trust for Elephants

Susan Millward, Executive Director, Animal Welfare Institute

Sarah Uhlemann, International Program Director, Center for Biological Diversity

Adam M Roberts CEO, Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA

Elizabeth Wade, Chief Executive Officer, Elephant Family

Mary Rice, Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency, UK

Rob Faber Chairman, Friends of the Elephant

Iris Ho, Wildlife Program Manager, Humane Society International

Andrew Wetzler Director, Land & Wildlife Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

Adam Grogan, Head of Wildlife Department, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, UK (RSPCA)

Dr. Trevor Jones, Director, Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (STEP)

Marcelle Meredith, Executive Director, National Council of SPCAs, South Africa

Dr. Christoph Schmidt, Chair, Pro Wildlife

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder & CEO, Save the Elephants

Dr Max Graham, CEO, Space for Giants

Alexander Rhodes, CEO, Stop Ivory

Sally Case, CEO, The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Charlie Mayhew, Chief Executive, Tusk Trust

Angela Sheldrick CEO, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Philip Mansbridge, UK Regional Director, The International Fund for Animal Welfare

John Baker, Managing Director, WildAid

James Deutsch, PhD Director, Wildlife, Kathleen S. Gobush, PhD, Senior Project Developer, Wildlife, Vulcan

Professor Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation Programmes, Zoological Society of London

Susan Lieberman, Ph.D., Vice President, International Policy, Wildlife Conservation Society

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