Portsmouth Law School


The Ivory Project - Background information

School of Law

Photograph: Some of the Team. Left to right, Emily Horrocks (Forensics), Dr Nick Pamment (ICJS), Justin Gosling (ICJS consultant on wildlife crime), Caroline Cox (School of Law) and Emma Casey (School of Law).

Chatham House’s 2014 report “Global Impacts of the Illegal wildlife Trade” highlighted the fact that the illegal trade in ivory has more than double since 2007 with prices of ivory and Rhino horn exceeding that of platinum on the Chinese black market. It is estimated that the illegal wildlife trade is worth in excess of $10 billion per year. The report bears witness to the interconnections between poverty, terrorism, a demand from parts of Asia for ivory based medicine products and status to civil conflict and a discordance between legislation at national and international levels which have enabled the trade to increase. It also highlights the fact that to date, much of the analysis done in respect of the illegal trade has been focused on the front end of the chain of trade – the poaching.

The Obama administration destroyed six million tonnes of confiscated ivory last year, in 2012 five tonnes of illegal ivory was destroyed in Gabon and in 2013 the UK government announced a £10 million grant to support the efforts to tackle the illegal ivory trade. 

 The University of Portsmouth’s Ivory Project focuses on one particular and contested link in the chain of ivory sales – the antiques trade.

The antiques trade, as other sellers of ivory, are subject to the 1973 Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES aim is to ensure that the international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of those plants and animals. Currently, there are 181 countries which are signatories to CITES however the evidence discussed above clearly suggests that CITES good intentions are not being effectively implemented at a national or international level. National and international law enforcement needs to be carefully considered in order that national governments can make and implement policy decisions at a local and international level . Similarly to be effective legislation and regulation needs to be consistent, clear and implementable.

Following the initial launch event at the Houses of Commons in November 2015, the research team have begun conducting interviews with dealers and auctioneers and have released a questionnaire which has been launched to the UK antiques trade.

The aim of the project is to consider the role played by the UK’s antiques trade in the trade in ivory.

The project will run, initially for one year and will end with the publication of a report aimed at the trade, but requested by DEFRA, which will consider the extent of the UK’s legal and illegal ivory trade.