Illegal ivory trade flourishing in EU

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A Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management official checks ivory inside a storeroom in Harare August 22, 2012. Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – In spite of a ban, illegal ivory trading is still flourishing in the European Union, as traders use a loophole allowing for the exchange of very old pieces, an Oxford University study sponsored by a campaign group found.

European law allows ivory obtained prior to 1947 to be traded freely. 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.

Campaign organization Avaaz purchased more than 100 pieces of ivory from 10 different EU countries to undergo carbon testing at Oxford University. Scientists concluded 75 percent of the ivory was from after 1947 and 20 percent was ivory that had been obtained since 1989.

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Many traders use the provision which allows the free trade of old ivory to illegally trade newer ivory, fuelling the market and incentivizing the killing of elephants, Avaaz said.

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