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The year-long study, a piece of academic rather than official research conducted by the School of Law at Portsmouth University, will be launched at Portcullis House in Westminster on November 26.

Caroline Cox, a socio-legal academic at Portsmouth with an interest in the laws surrounding art and antiquities, is leading the project.

She has invited UK regional auctioneers and representatives of BADA and LAPADA to attend the briefing event alongside representatives from the Wildlife Crime Unit and a UN Special Investigator on ivory poaching.

The Conservative Party's 2015 manifesto pledge to ban the sale of all ivory has inspired the project.

"Engage with the Trade"

"A simple ban, seems to me to be an overreaction, particularly when very little research has actually ever been carried out into the scale and nature of the problem," says Cox.

"I really want to engage with the trade and understand the issues they face. My hope is that from the meeting we will be able to tailor the project to their needs."

Cox emphasised to ATG that this is a personal project. However, she says DEFRA have asked to see a copy of the document after publication (scheduled for December 2016) and its content could have implications for policy-making.

 "DEFRA should be in full possession of the facts as to the scale of the purported problem," she adds.

"They are aware of the project and have requested sight of it once it is completed and so I really believe it is in the trade's interest to take part."

The first phase of the project is to interview auctioneers, with dealers to be contacted for phase two.