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Some of the ivory tusks seized at Pasir Panjang Scanning Station in March 2018 (Image by AVA/ICA)

Why is AVA is asking whether ivory sale should be banned? The answer is obviously yes

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is seeking feedback from the public on whether to totally ban ivory sale in Singapore.

The month long public consultation (27 Nov to 27 Dec) was launched on Tuesday to gather insight about the public’s thoughts on the AVAs proposed total ban on local elephant ivory sale under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.

Currently, Singapore has banned all international trade on elephant ivory products since 1990 under the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But trade of ivory products is still permitted domestically if traders can prove that their products were acquired before 1990 prior to the inclusion of relevant elephant species in CITES.

If a total ban is enforced, no one will be allowed to trade any form of elephant ivory product in Singapore, regardless of when it was acquired. Public displays of ivory will also not be allowed with the exception of educational purposes like in zoos and museums.

Back in August, the ivory debate was rekindled when an online store popped up appearing to sell jewellery and accessories made with pre-1990 ivory. The public was aghast and furious – calling for the store to be shut down and for the sale of ivory to be banned completely. It was later revealed to be a part of an awareness campaign by the World Wife Fun for Nature (WFF) about the shortcomings of local wildlife protection laws.

CITES has also been urging participating countries to consider banning domestic trade as well, with countries like China, Hong Kong, the United States and the United Kingdom taking stricter action against the domestic trade of elephant ivory.

So it appears that the government is now exploring the possibility of a total ban. If implemented, a grace period of up to three years will be given to those affected by the ivory ban to decide what they wish to do with their existing stocks of elephant ivory and ivory products.

"Local businesses and individuals who own ivory can consider keeping, donating, or destroying the ivory," AVA said.

The public have come out in full agreement of the total ban, echoing their earlier sentiments that this should have been done a long time ago. Many even pointed out the redundancy of asking for public opinion when it’s clear that the majority of the public are behind the ban.