Theresa May, the leader of the U.K.'s Conservative Party, has withdrawn the party's pledge to join China and the U.S. in the blanket banning of domestic ivory sales. Replacing the commitment of previous manifestos is a pledge to collaborate with international organizations to protect endangered species.
Currently, it is illegal in the U.K. to sell ivory which has been obtained from elephants who were killed after 1947. Nonetheless, dealers are not required by law to provide any documentary evidence of the ivory's age, and critics claim that the ivory market in the U.K. is ostensibly a cover for illegal trade.
Since 1989, there has been an international ban on the sale of ivory, however many countries, including China, the U.S. and U.K. permitted the domestic sale of antique ivory. In September 2016, at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Hawaii, delegates voted to close the domestic trade in countries where it still exists. Although the agreement has no legal authority, conservationists were hopeful that the text would prompt countries to ban any domestic sales of the precious material.
In 2009, the BBC's David Harper investigated Britain's role and involvement in the ivory supply chain.
"Amazingly London, right here, is one of the world's biggest markets for the sale of illegal ivory and on top of that, Britain, London in particular, is the world's third largest supplier of illegal ivory to America."