Fiona Gordon has recommended the New Zealand Government close the country's ivory trade in 2014.

The 2019 elected Palmerston North Horizons councillor said elephants are still being slaughtered for their tusks.

"I had thought the ivory trade had stopped back in the 1980s. It made me wonder if New Zealand was contributing to the problem and what it (NZ) could actually do to help stop this vile trade."

Gordon continued researching international policy but found little information on New Zealand's trade.

Advertisement

"The more answers I got from our government, the more questions I had and the more intrigued I became."

Gordon discovered that New Zealand still imports and re-exports ivory and with no rules governing internal trade.

"It's extremely difficult to tell the difference between new ivory or antique ivory, and no one is checking."

Gordon looked at the international context and decades of official NZ import and export data and presented a report to government in 2014 with a recommendation to close New Zealand's ivory trade.

She said it was just a few years ago a Napier man was convicted of illegally importing tens of thousands of dollars worth of ivory.

"The ivory had slipped through our border control and some of it had even been sold on our domestic market under the guise of legality.

"This scenario is exactly why so many other nations are shutting down their ivory trades and why so many elephant range states are urging all nations to stop ivory trade."

Gordon said she's spurred on by the fact that most New Zealanders are horrified to find that we still trade in ivory.

Her work into the ivory trade has meant a lot of research, report writing, lobbying, following national and international case law, meetings and correspondence with Ministers, MPs and government officials.

Advertisement

She has also been writing articles here and overseas and working hard to consistently keep the pressure on the previous and current government.

"It's about meeting our international policy obligations, contributing positively to global conservation efforts, and reducing risk of illegal ivory trading.

"But this of course is about our moral obligations too – elephants are highly complex, intelligent, sentient animals."

In 2014 Gordon met New Zealander David Thomson, the African Wildlife Foundation Board chair at the time, and they published an Open Letter to the NZ Government which was signed by a swathe of international conservation agencies and high profile New Zealanders.

She teamed up with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to undertake the first study of the ivory trade in New Zealand and Australia which was published in 2016 and presented to the Australian and NZ Governments.

In May 2017 the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand invited Gordon to become their Ambassador on Illegal Wildlife Trade.

The IFAW work continued with the JGINZ No Domestic Trade campaign with a 2018 Open Letter to government and many more discussions with New Zealand officials.

The Department of Conservation has also released a discussion paper that includes proposals to close or regulate the ivory trade.

"This is a great milestone but there is still much work to do, including maintaining public pressure via submissions which close October 25.

Gordon says that according to the JGI, which has called for a complete ban on the buying and selling of ivory in New Zealand, an elephant dies every 20 minutes, and the ivory trade played a huge role in their deaths.

With only about 400,000 elephants left globally, Gordon says every market closure is a win for Africa's elephants.

"Every piece of ivory is a dead elephant. No market, no trade, no slaughter.

"That's why so many nations are closing their ivory markets, including most recently Australia which has just announced it will do the same.

"This is a truly global issue and New Zealand closing its ivory trade would epitomise a truly global response.

"Kiwi kids grow up learning that "E" is for elephants – you can't get much more globally iconic than that.

"We might think we are a long way from Africa's poaching crisis, but New Zealand court evidence has shown us we are a link in the chain of international illegal trade.

"I don't think anybody in New Zealand wants us to be that link. Trade in ivory perpetuates the notion of ivory as a commodity.

"This is counter-productive to the massive efforts on the ground in Africa to protect and place value in their elephants, not ivory.

"In contrast, banning our ivory trade will work to support those efforts and brings us into line with the many nations around the world that are shunning ivory. "

Gordon says the big markets for ivory include the USA, China, Hong Kong, UK, but these markets are now closed or closing.

"We need to be mindful that as markets close, the trade can shift - such as the reported increasing ivory trade in Vietnam. It's time New Zealand closed its market too."