Campaign group says illegal ivory trade bypasses European Union law

An exhibition at the European Parliament on Tuesday calling for a ban on ivory trade in Europe

Ivory obtained after 1947 but before 1990 can be sold with a government certificate, while selling ivory obtained after the global ivory trade was banned is illegal.

All the pieces bought in Bulgaria, Italy and Spain were illegal, as were large majorities of the items in France, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Avaaz's report said: "This is an EU-wide problem - high levels of illegal ivory were found in nearly every country tested". Researchers purchased over 100 ivory items and found 75 percent of them were fake antiques being sold illegally.

Marktplaats rules state that any ivory offered for sale must either carry a certificate or a statement that predates the 1947 threshold.

The new evidence, it added, puts pressure on the European Union to ban the trade outright because so many pieces are being passed off as "antique" ivory from elephants killed before 1947, which is legal.

Bert Wander from Avaaz said: "It's sick".

Those conclusions could be drawn with full certainty thanks to a technique known as radiocarbon dating, which compares the three different isotopes of carbon.

When the items were analysed by Oxford University's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, more than 74% were found to be from after 1947.

The finding was not as surprising to Avaaz campaigners, however.

Traders have used a loophole to conduct ivory-related dealings.

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The EU says that a year ago it strengthened measures to fight poaching and end the trade in raw ivory. "Every day the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever".

Sales of ivory are banned in Europe since 1990.

All the ivory pieces were advertised as originating from before 1947 or had no date information.

"We need urgently to close the loopholes, ban the ivory trade and make sure all elephants are protected so that we can stop the poaching crisis and save them for generations to come". In April, the United Kingdom announced its own domestic ivory ban with even tougher measures. And according to Avaaz, the study "provides a clear and categorical answer to that question: they do not". EURACTIV's partner Journal de l'Environnement reports.

While the numbers of elephants being killed has dropped for the last five years, around 55 are still being killed every day.

The ban was also a victory for Britain's Prince William, who has long campaigned against the ivory trade.

There is hope that things could change, however.

The EU's environment commissioner Karmenu Vella pledged to look into the claims after visiting Avaaz's exhibition of illegal ivory outside the Commission in Brussels.

There is also growing awareness at the national level.

The European Commission said that addressing poaching and ivory trafficking was a cornerstone of an EU action plan against wildlife trafficking and that the Commission was now discussing the next steps.

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