Hippos, walruses, orcas, narwhals, and sperm whales will receive much-needed legal protections under the United Kingdom’s Ivory Act.

It’s now illegal to import, export, or trade ivory from these animals in the UK, and violators will face unlimited fines and up to five years in jail, thanks to a decision by the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The agency said the vulnerable animals needed the expanded protections due to increased poaching and other human-caused dangers.

“By extending greater legal protections to five more species, we are sending a clear message the commercial trade of ivory is totally unacceptable,” DEFRA’s Biodiversity Minister Trudy Harrison said.

The UK’s Ivory Act originally aimed to protect elephants from brutal slaughter for their ivory. 

But prohibiting the import, export, or trade in elephant ivory shifted the killings to other species, including hippos — whom conservationists now say are the most vulnerable species to poaching for ivory — as well as walruses and narwhals for their tusks and orcas and sperm whales for their teeth.

One study showed that more than 38,000 hippo teeth, 7,000 hippo tusks, and 6,500 carvings from hippo ivory were traded in a single decade. Meanwhile, the other species also face declines in the wild attributed to human activity, including from climate change. 

We thank the more than 33,000 people who signed our petition urging the UK to make this critical and life-saving change!

We’ll keep doing all we can to advocate for animals everywhere!