Britain is cracking down on the ivory trade with new legislation that will ban the sale of all ivory items, regardless of their age.
The ban is being touted as the toughest in Europe and among the toughest in the world by the British environment secretary Michael Gove.
"Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world's toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations," Gove said in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Under current British law, the sale of raw African elephant ivory of any age is prohibited. Additionally, worked items produced before 1947 can be traded within the United Kingdom or the European Union, and so can items produced after 1947, provided they have government-issued certificates. Naturally, the issue of age becomes a problem in these sorts of situations.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned international sales of ivory in 1990.
The new British law bans the sale of ivory items no matter when they were produced, with a few exceptions.
Musical instruments made before 1975 and containing less than 20 percent of ivory will not fall under the ban, as will objects made before 1947 with less than 10 percent ivory. Antiques that are at least 100 years old and are considered "the rarest and most important objects of their type" will also be exempted, provided they meet that standard as determined by a group of experts.
Accredited museums in the U.K. and internationally will also be exempt from the ban.
Charlie Mayhew, the chief executive of the African wildlife charity Tusk Trust, described the exemptions as pragmatic. "The ban will ensure there is no value for modern-day ivory and the tusks of recently poached elephants cannot enter the U.K. market," he told The Guardian.
Elephants carved from illegal Ivory are displayed at an 'Endangered Species' exhibition at London Zoo in 2011. The exhibition was organized by Operation Charm, a Metropolitan Police partnership aimed at tackling the illegal trade in endangered wildlife. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The legislation has not yet gone into effect. It will be proposed "when parliamentary time allows," a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told The Guardian.
The ban is more all-encompassing than the United States' ban, which exempts ivory objects over 100 years old as well as those with less than 50 percent ivory.
China officially banned the sale of ivory at the end of 2017, and, earlier this year, Hong Kong introduced it own ivory ban that would go into effect in stages, with a ban in place by 2021.
Those who break the new British ban will face up to five years in jail or an unlimited fine, the BBC reported.
Response to the Defra initiative was overwhelming, with more than 70,000 responses and 88 percent in favor of the legislation.
"No one in the U.K. today would dream of wearing a tiger-skin coat," Matthew Hatchwell, the director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London, told The Guardian. "Thanks to this move, in a few years' time, we believe the same will be true for the trade in ivory."