Their reason for writing this letter is the continuous dire situation of African elephants. Poachers kill elephants just for their tusks. International commercial trade in ivory is prohibited. Trade is only allowed in antique ivory, which is ivory acquired pre-1976, before the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) entered into force.
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze commented: “Slaughtering elephants for profit is abhorrent. We urgently need to act – not only in the African countries and the main purchasing countries. At European level, we also have to ensure that trade in antique ivory does not cover up illegal trade in ivory and, in the worst case, fuel poaching. It is high time for us to guarantee this at European level, too, through additional trade restrictions. The European Commission must present a proposal as soon as possible.”
The EU, unlike some Asian countries, has not been a main legal exports of raw and worked destination for ivory for quite a while. Any kind of trade in ivory within and from the EU is restricted to antique ivory only. Since July 2017, the re-export of raw ivory has been prohibited in the EU. The German Environment Ministry already called for general trade restrictions on worked ivory at the Environment Council on March 5, 2018. So far, there has been no proposal on the topic from the EU.
Legal exports of raw and worked ivory from the EU to Asia have increased over the last few years. Legal trade risks masking illegal trade in both raw and worked ivory. The EU ban on (re-)export of raw ivory could easily be circumvented by working raw ivory minimally. Therefore, trade restrictions on worked ivory are also generally necessary.