Thank you for contacting me about the plight of the elephant and the ivory trade.

The decline in the elephant population, fuelled by poaching for ivory, shames our generation. The need for radical, robust action to protect one of the world's most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.

I am therefore pleased that, following a consultation, the Government has confirmed plans to ban the sale of ivory and put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to address the drastic decline in the elephant population.

The ban will cover items of all ages, not just those made after a certain date, and the maximum available penalty for breaching it will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison. It will include certain narrowly-defined, carefully-targeted exemptions for items that do not contribute to poaching, where a ban would be unwarranted. By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK’s ban will be one of the toughest in the world.

In addition, in October the UK will host the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade. This follows the ground breaking London 2014 conference on the illegal wildlife trade, and subsequent conferences in Botswana and Vietnam.

The ban on ivory sales will build on work at home and overseas to tackle poaching and the illegal ivory trade. The UK military is training African park rangers in proven poacher interception techniques in key African countries, and Border Force officers share their expertise in identifying smuggled ivory with counterparts worldwide to stop wildlife trafficking.

Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.

Banning ivory sales will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.