African elephants remain endangered by East Asian demand for ivory. Source: MaxPixel
Singapore is mulling a ban on the sale of ivory, according to Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon.
A ban, which would include an engagement process with stakeholders, was still in the planning stages, he told the city-state’s parliament.
“This is part of Singapore’s broader commitment to tackle the illegal ivory trade and to support elephant conservation,” Dr Koh said.
The commercial trade in ivory has been banned since 1990 but non-commercial exchanges, like for displays in museums or research, is legal with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s approval.
Ivory smuggling in China, the world’s biggest ivory market, reportedly fell 80 per cent last year from previous peak years following a government initiative, Beijing claimed last month.
China said it would stop commercial processing and sales of ivory by the end of 2017. Last year, it imposed a three-year ban on ivory imports. The number of illegal wildlife trade cases had been on the decline since last year, the Xinhua news agency reported.
In June last year, Singapore burned nearly 8 tonnes of seized ivory, with an estimated value of S$13 million (US$9.2 million) seized from illegal shipments.
It was the first time seized ivory had been destroyed in the Lion City with previous hauls apparently returned to their original country, donated to museums or kept for educational use.
National development minister Desmond Lee said at the event that the public destruction of ivory sent a “strong message” that Singapore condemned the trade in endangered wildlife.
Singapore was recently listed by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic as a “country of primary concern” because of its position as a transit point for illegal ivory from Africa to the Asian market.
Between 2012 and 2014, Traffic categorised Singapore in the same group as Malaysia, Malawi and Togo. It said the countries rarely made ivory seizures and when seizures occurred, they tended to be large, with the greatest proportion of quantities weighing 800kg or more, suggesting that the majority of smuggled ivory was part of higher-level organised crime networks.
Singapore has handled 12 cases of illegal ivory import or trans-shipment in the last years, with seizures of about 10 tonnes of ivory from Congo, Kenya, Nigeria and the US.