Britain under increasing pressure to ban antique ivory sales

Grant Miller, a senior officer in Britain's Border Force, reacts during an interview with Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. In South Africa for a British-hosted workshop on trafficking flora and fauna, Miller said that Britons made it clear in a recent consultation by the government that "a domestic ivory market in the United Kingdom is no longer socially acceptable." (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Britain under increasing pressure to ban domestic ivory trade of antique items

JOHANNESBURG — Britons have strongly indicated that they want to end their country's domestic ivory trade, which allows the sale of antique ivory items produced before 1947, a British official said Thursday.

Grant Miller, who leads a border security unit targeting wildlife contraband, said Britons made it clear in a recent consultation by the government that "a domestic ivory market in the United Kingdom is no longer socially acceptable."

Miller, a senior officer in Britain's Border Force, spoke on the sidelines of a workshop in South Africa that explored ways to curb flora and fauna trafficking and was attended by southern African customs officials and several Chinese delegates.

The British government wants to take steps against ivory trading that would be "some of the strongest in the world," said Miller, whose unit is based at Heathrow Airport in London.

Also Thursday, the British government said proposals to outlaw ivory sales drew more than 70,000 comments from the public, the vast majority of them in favor of a ban. It said it will release a detailed response soon.

Evidence has shown that traffickers have laundered illegally obtained ivory into Britain's legal ivory market and that some shipments were bound for Asia, according to the WWF conservation group.

In China this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May noted plans to increase cooperation in the fight against the illegal ivory trade, including efforts to lobby other countries to ban their domestic trades.

China, a major consumer of ivory, banned its domestic market as of the beginning of this year. Miller, the British Border Force officer, said it was too early to assess the impact of the ban on African elephant poaching.

Britain will host an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade in October.

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Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris

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