Ivory Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:16 pm on 17th July 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Conservative 5:16 pm, 17th July 2018

My Lords, after some of the recent speeches on this Bill, I hesitate to make my contribution, which brings us back to the reason we are all here. There is a very real problem. More than three decades ago, I saw the effect on an elephant of having its tusk removed. Having seen that, one has to say that there must be a way to protect these animals—and there must be more than the Ivory Bill. That is the first thing that I want to say. That was referred to by an earlier speaker in this debate, who spoke of the need for development money to be spent in those villages where elephants trample down the shambas and the livelihoods of poorly educated persons are often ruined by stampeding elephants. That is no excuse for the Bill not to take its place on our statute book. I was very interested in the comments made on other rare—or not so rare animals—which become ever rarer, because there is a need, as was said in another place, to look at how we might extend the sort of protection that we consider by means of this Bill to other species.

As noble Lords will know, I have spent much of the last 40 years working on matters African, and in that time I have seen how important animals, particularly elephants, are to tourism and the building up of business in African and Asian countries. I believe that the Bill is balanced because, in its exemptions, it looks to protect rightfully and legitimately held ivory but, at the same time, it helps to bring about a cessation of the ivory poaching going on in so many different ways and in so many different parts of Africa and, indeed, some parts of Asia. It is always a surprise to me to find out how bad the degradation of elephant populations is.

I have spent a little while pursuing the problems of the Niassa province in the north of Mozambique. Anyone who has any understanding of that province will know that it is very poor, very rugged and under pressure from those in the Far East who would buy the ivory. They work through every imaginable sort of illegal trade in east Africa and, to some extent, in southern Africa. The countries are seeking to train and I have always been in awe of the work done by the British Army, under a Defra grant, to help these countries learn to track poachers and prevent them taking the best of an elephant for illicit purposes.

We need a framework to stop the sale of illicit ivory. We may not have got every detail right in the Bill as currently drafted. I was reminded of the potential for this in the speeches by my noble friend Lord Carrington of Fulham and other noble Lords. However, even if we have not got it 100% right yet, we are on the way to putting right something that has been wrong for far too long. I hope the Minister will be able to respond on the question of extending the thinking of the Bill to other endangered species. As someone who spends a lot of recreation time among animals in the bush, I believe that is increasingly important. I cannot underline more strongly the importance of stopping the poaching that is going on. It is highly organised—something that has not been discussed so far—by a wide variety of individuals who are also involved in human and drug trafficking. They do not know any of the boundaries to illegal acts. When the Bill is law, and we have strengthened the capacity of African and Asian countries to protect their elephants and other wildlife, we will also get an enormous amount of information about other illicit trade. That is not the purpose of the Bill, but it is concomitant with it to understand how these organisations work.

Some noble Lords will know the Selous-Niassa corridor, down from Tanzania into Mozambique. It is, sadly, almost unpoliced, and is full of poachers organised from both sides of the Tanzania-Mozambique border, with a lot of Far Eastern planning behind the removal of elephant tusks. There are also problems with the storage of previously found elephant tusks: most of those taken over the last 10 years are still hidden away. That is another aspect of the work anti-poaching squads will be trying to do in many African countries. It may sound as if we are only in favour of the elephant. No, we are not: we are in favour of the heritage of these countries, which have many wild animals attracting an income they would not otherwise have. My noble friend the Minister gave an excellent introduction to the Bill. Will he discuss with other departments what more we can do to help countries protect their own elephants and to help, through development assistance, villages that can be greatly damaged by marauding elephants, as I have seen on many occasions?