Importing ivory into the UK from five species, in addition to elephants, is to be banned following a lengthy government consultation.


In particular, under amendments to the Ivory Act 2018, it will now be illegal to bring in the teeth of hippopotamuses, a species that is believed to be risk from poaching for its ivory.

The other species covered by the extension to the act are killer whales, narwhals, sperm whales and walruses.

But when the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a consultation process in 2021, it was the plight of hippos that conservation groups were most concerned about.

The Often Overlooked Ivory Trade, a report published by the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC in 2021, found that the quantity traded between 2009 and 2018 would have come from an average of 1,349 hippos every year.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the ban on elephant ivory appears to be working since it came into force in June 2022.

In a snapshot of online marketplaces, the number of adverts selling ivory in the UK had reduced by 66 per cent since the ban came into effect.

But this, argues IFAW UK’s head of campaigns and programmes Frances Goodrum, has left other species even more vulnerable to poaching.

“This has been especially true of hippos where their ivory is the second most common form after elephant ivory,” she said. “This extension of the legislation is another step forward to making ivory a taboo, and more importantly, a crime.”

IFAW has been campaigning for hippos to be protected by the Ivory Act since 2019.

The global hippo population is estimated to be somewhere between 115-130,000 spread widely, but often sparsely, across most countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Banning the trade in hippo ivory in the UK will only touch the surface of the issue.

Hippos are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which allows for regulated commercial activity.

A proposal to enforce a complete ban at the CITES conference in 2022 did not pass.


Main image: Hippo, Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda © Digital Vision/Getty


James FairWildlife journalist