Piano keys
Ivory piano keys.

Image: Pixabay.com

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The information highlights the potentially misleading nature of ivory export data used by NGOs to argue the case for an ivory ban.

BADA found that 74% of the thousands of ivory items exported from the UK since 2015 were piano keys, after submit ting a freedom of information request to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In 2016, old keyboard instruments represented as much as 81% of ivory exports.

52 items every piano

Every piano is counted as 52 different export items as it includes 52 white ivory keys. Mark Dodgson, secretary general of BADA, says this has “distorted the data enormously”.

BADA says that without pianos, “the true picture of the UK’s own exports of worked ivory antiques amounts to an average of just 585 items a year”.

In a House of Lords debate in September, LAPADA chairman Lord de Mauley said UK ivory export numbers excluding piano keys were “small fry” compared with the volumes of ivory traded in key Asian ivory consumer markets.

Asian art dealer and BADA council member Alastair Gibson has now written to former businesswoman and House of Lords member Baroness Nevi lle-Rol fe to highlight the new piano keys findings.

He is campaigning ahead of the report stage in the House of Lords on October 24 where the ivory bill will be debated, followed by a third reading in the upper house before Royal Assent.

The UK government’s ivory bill, which proposes a near-total ban on the trade in ivory, is expected to be brought into force in mid-2019.