A new investigation has shed light on the growing hippo ivory trade in the UK.
International wildlife charity Born Free uncovered a “disturbing” rise in ivory taken from hippos and other animals being sold online.
Its report – named ‘A Tooth For A Tooth’ – looked into what has been happening in the UK trade since the Ivory Act was introduced this year. The act, implemented in June, introduced one of the world’s toughest bans on the elephant ivory trade. Hippos were not protected by the legislation.
Now, sales of hippo ivory have doubled in the country.
Items like raw hippo tusks and elephant ivory-style solid carved figures are in demand from collectors. This has sparked fear that hippo ivory could be seen as a replacement for the original.
“Hippo ivory largely resembles elephant ivory, but as it is subject to fewer trade restrictions,” the report’s author Frankie Osuch told Plant Based News (PBN). She added that it’s often regarded as a “cheap legal alternative.”
Hippos are victims of both legal hunts and illegal poaching. Hippo numbers have decreased between seven and 20 percent in the last 10 years, and they are a threatened species.
Their most recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessment determined that they are vulnerable to extinction. The ivory trade is considered a primary threat.
The ivory trade in the UK
Currently, the sale of hippo ivory is legal in the UK, as long as it has been sourced from legal hunts.
According to Osuch, however, it is “incredibly difficult” to tell whether a hippo was illegally boarded or legally hunted. “Therefore, the legal market provides an opportunity for the laundering of illegally poached hippo ivory,” she added.
Born Free’s report identified 621 ivory products still being sold online, with a guide price of around £1.2 million in total.
It also found that around half of these products were illegal. Despite the Ivory Act being implemented, elephant ivory is still being sold covertly on a number of websites.
Oher animals used for ivory include walruses, warthogs, sperm whales, orcas, and narwhals.
Born Free is now calling on the government to strengthen enforcement of the act, while also adding hippos and other species to it.