LONDON, April 3 (Xinhua) -- A ban on all sales of ivory in Britain is to be introduced by the British government, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced Tuesday.
Gove confirmed the ban as he set out the plans to help protect elephants for future generations.
The government confirmed robust measures will be brought into force through primary legislation after more than 70,000 people responded to a consultation, with nine out of 10 in favour of a ban on ivory sales.
The government said the ban will cover ivory items of all ages, not only those produced after a certain date.
The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.
The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory, said a government spokesperson.
Gove said: "Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world's toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations."
There will be certain narrowly-defined and carefully-targeted exemptions for items which do not contribute to the poaching of elephants.
Exempt will be items with only a small amount of ivory, less than 10 percent, in them, and made prior to 1947. Musical instruments, made prior to 1975, must have an ivory content of less than 20 percent.
Rare and most important items of their type, at least 60 years old, will be assessed by specialist institutions such as Britain's most prestigious museums before exemption permits are issued. In addition, there will be a specific exemption for portrait miniatures painted on thin slivers of ivory and which are at least 60 years old.
In October, Britain hosts the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade.
Tanya Steele chief executive at WWF said: "Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets. This ban makes the UK a global leader in tackling this bloody trade."
Steele said global action is needed to stop the poaching of elephants.
Matthew Hatchwell from the Zoological Society of London, said: "No one in the UK today would dream of wearing a tiger-skin coat. Thanks to this move, in a few years' time we believe the same will be true for the trade in ivory."
John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivory said: "This is a significant day for the future of elephants. The UK government has taken a momentous step."