A parliamentary inquiry in Australia is investigating whether the domestic and legal trade in ivory is contributing to the deaths of thousands of African elephants each year.
Members of parliament are investigating if lax regulations are allowing recently poached ivory to be passed off as antiques in Australia. It is illegal to import ivory into Australia, but there are concerns black market ivory is being smuggled into the country.
Campaigners argue there is clear evidence poachers have been using Australia to offload elephant tusks from the illicit trade in ivory into the legitimate art market.
In the past decade, more than 320 imported and 79 exported items made of ivory have been confiscated by Australian authorities.
Labor Senator Lisa Singh is part of the investigating parliamentary committee.
“I think, ultimately, Australians don’t want to be contributing to this ongoing trade of rhino and ivory in our country, knowing full well that that leads to the deaths of thousands of elephants and rhinos across the globe,” she said.
Britain, the United States, the European Union and China have all limited their domestic trades of ivory and rhino horn in recent years. Australia’s parliamentary inquiry will look at a range of options, including a total ban on the sale of all ivory and horn items.
The UK has made exemptions for rare and important items more than 100 years old and for other pieces of art that contain only small amounts of ivory.
It is a move that Australia should follow, said Patricia Anderson, a gallery owner.
“What happens when a family wants to sell grandma’s piano with the ivory keys? What happens when someone wants to sell granddad’s walking stick, or Aunt Flo’s chess set?,” she said.
It is estimated that 55 African elephants are killed by poachers each day for their tusks.