REF 2021 Impact Case Study: The elephant in the sale room: Influencing law, policy and practice regarding the sale of “antique” ivory


Description of impact

Research completed by Caroline Cox and the University of Portsmouth’s Ivory Project has impacted legislation relating to the ivory trade and changes to the enforcement of law relating to the trade. Her research called for enforceable and effective regulations that distinguished the legal ivory trade from the illegal trade in ivory, recommending the ending of self-certification (regarding the age of ‘worked’ ivory objects), the introduction of a registration ‘passport’ for higher value items, and the creation of best practice guides within the antiques trade. She provided written evidence to the October 2017 government consultation into the sale of ivory in the UK as the Conservative party delivered on its manifesto pledge. Her research findings not only provided an empirical underpinning to other consultation responses but were also expressly highlighted in the government’s consultation response. The resulting Ivory Act 2018 reflected many of Cox’s recommendations. Her work was also cited by the Court of Appeal in March 2020 when rejecting an action to prevent the Act from becoming law.
Her research was picked up internationally and saw her invited by the Australian Parliamentary Committee to attend the public hearings (July 2018) and provide evidence as a prelude to the Committee recommending the adoption of similar legislation to the UK. While domestically, two major trade associations have subsequently produced best practice guides for their members/readers. More recently her work has attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Police who wish to use the machine learning techniques employed in Cox’s research to (i) more effectively identify illegal ivory being sold online, and (ii) help train British law enforcement agencies to improve their response procedures relating to the online sale of ivory in the UK.
Impact statusOpen
Impact dateNov 2015


  • REF2021