Australia is taking the first steps to ban the domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, out of concern that it encourages the illegal poaching of endangered elephant and rhinoceros species in Asia and Africa.

"Australia's domestic market does not represent a major threat to world ivory trade but it is important to ensure there are no back doors to encourage illegal activity," said Environment Minister Sussan Ley, at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva.  "I will meet with national environment ministers in November to ensure steps are being taken to formally end domestic trade in all jurisdictions."

The news is welcomed by green activists who have been working for years to get Australia to close down the trade.

"Whilst Australia has had a legal domestic trade in ivory, we have been complicit in the poaching crisis as it's easy to launder illegal ivory through the existing legal trade," said Donalea Patman from For the Love of Wildlife.  "Working collaboratively with Nature Needs More and other small organisations, we demonstrated that there's rampant unregulated trade.

She added, "It's taken more than three years and today's announcement is fabulous news knowing that Australia is joining other countries in stopping the slaughter of elephants."

A parliamentary committee is studying the ban in the UK and could use it as a model.  A man might include exceptions for small items, art institutions, and musical instruments made before 1975 with less than 20 percent ivory or rhino horn content.