The following statement was issued by WCS Vice President of International Policy Dr. Susan Lieberman in response to the European Union’s new ivory trade rules announced today:

“WCS commends the European Union and its Member States for their commitment to conservation, and welcomes the adoption of stricter domestic elephant ivory trade rules.

“Today, the EU and its Member States joined other countries that have taken steps to close their previously legal ivory markets, including China, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

“The link between the legal and illegal ivory trade is undeniable. The existence of legal domestic ivory markets provides a loophole used to launder trafficked ivory. Elephant poaching will therefore continue as long as open markets for their ivory exist. With the African forest elephant now recognized as Critically Endangered and the African savanna elephant as Endangered (on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species), closure of all remaining ivory markets is imperative.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of almost four years of internal discussions between the European Commission, European Parliament, EU Member States, and multiple stakeholders.

“In recent years, there has been growing momentum for a strong domestic ban on ivory trade within the EU. Several European countries, notably France, Luxembourg, and Belgium took individual actions, going above and beyond the EU internal ivory market restrictions, which they deemed insufficient.

“In 2017, the European Commission held a public consultation on the subject, receiving over 90,000 responses. This is the third-highest number of responses ever received in an EU public consultation, indicating a strong and widespread interest among EU citizens in this issue, and strong support for elephant conservation. More than 90 percent of those polled supported the closure of EU ivory markets.

“In multiple Resolutions over the last several years, the European Parliament has repeatedly called for an EU-wide domestic ivory ban, heeding the request from the majority of African elephant range States to put an end to elephant ivory trade and increase the chances of recovery for this iconic species. In October 2020, EU Environment Ministers asked the Commission to submit an ambitious proposal to close ivory trade from the EU market.

“While the measures announced today are a welcome step, and provide a glimmer of hope for the survival of elephants in the wild, we note that most restrictions are embedded in a guidance document that isn’t legally binding. We therefore urge EU Member States to fulfill these recommendations. We also call on the European Commission to closely and regularly monitor their implementation in the months and years to come, and implement additional and stricter rules, as deemed necessary.

“We now urge other countries around the world, and in particular Japan – one of the world's largest remaining domestic ivory markets – to also close their domestic elephant ivory markets and enact the strongest bans possible.”