Protecting Wildlife

Five more rare or endangered species are set to be protected under an extension of the Ivory Act.

The government is proposing to extend the protection provided by the act to cover the Hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal, killer whale and sperm whale species.


  • These five endangered CITES-listed species are to receive greater legal protections under the world-leading Ivory Act 2018
  • This meets a Conservative 2019 manifesto commitment and is part of a wider UK drive on international conservation

The Hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal, killer whale (also known as orca) and sperm whale species are set to receive greater legal protections under the UK’s world-leading ban on importing, exporting and dealing in items containing ivory, the Government has announced today (Tuesday 23 May 2023) – delivering on a key animal welfare manifesto commitment.

Of these the Hippopotamus is the species most at risk from the trade in its ivory after elephants. The other species are already threatened by climate change, and the continuing trade in their ivory may exacerbate these threats and make their long-term survival less likely.

Putting the UK at the forefront of global conservation efforts, today’s consultation response confirms plans to extend the Ivory Act 2018 to ban all dealing in ivory from these species, including imports and exports.

The UK’s world-leading Ivory Act is one of the toughest bans on elephant ivory sales in the world, with some of the strongest enforcement measures. Those found guilty of breaching the ban face tough penalties including an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

Biodiversity Minister Trudy Harrison said:

“This is a pivotal moment in delivering one of our key manifesto commitments on international conservation.

“The Ivory Act is one of the toughest bans of its kind in the world and by extending greater legal protections to five more species, we are sending a clear message the commercial trade of ivory is totally unacceptable.

“The UK has long led the way in conservation and our ban shows continued global leadership in doing all we can to protect the world’s most endangered species.”

Steve Backshall MBE said:

“This is an important moment in the conservation of these iconic species.

There is widespread public support for the Ivory ban and today by extending it further we are sending a clear message that there is no place in the UK for this vile trade.”

Frances Goodrum, Head of Campaigns and Programmes at IFAW UK said:

“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the UK Ivory Act coming into force, IFAW UK are encouraged by early indications that the ban is having a significant impact on the trade in elephant ivory.  Yet other species are still poached globally to meet an unnecessary demand for “luxury” ivory products, including the hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal, sperm whale and killer whale.  We welcome DEFRA’s decision to extend this powerful legislation, which will go a long way in cracking down on a damaging trade. Today is a good day for conservation and a step change towards international commitments to safeguard our natural world”

The five species are all listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates their trade internationally, and hippopotamus, walrus and sperm whale are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

The announcement today comes following an extensive public consultation and with the one-year anniversary of the successful ivory ban approaching.

Since 6 June 2022, there has been over 6,500 registrations and certificates issued for exempted items so that they continue to form part of our artistic and cultural heritage.

The Government is a world leader in international conservation – with the UK playing a key role supporting the agreement of the ambitious Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in December. The new deal, signed by 195 countries, commits countries to protect 30% of our land and ocean by 2030 and end human-induced extinctions of known threatened species.

Details can be found on the government website by clicking on the link below:

Five new species set to be protected under Ivory Act extension - GOV.UK (


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