A LEADING North-East antiques expert has labelled Prince William's plan to destroy the royal family's ivory collection as “bonkers beyond belief.”

The Duke of Cambridge is said to have come up with the idea after launching United for Wildlife, a coalition of seven organisations, which aims to end the illegal trade in ivory.

However, Barnard Castle-based antiques expert and broker David Harper said the destruction of ivory artwork would simply increase demand and drive up prices, especially in the far East.

Loading article content

He proposes flooding the market with ivory, driving down its value and putting the poachers out of business.

Money raised from such a huge sale of ivory would then be given to conservation projects in the areas most affected by poaching.

Under current legislation, no ivory pieces produced after 1947 can be traded and there is an outright ban on the sale of elephants' tusks, irrespective of their age.

He said: “I get contacted by clients on a daily basis with queries about ivory. They are in a state of panic that they are breaking the law because they have got ivory in their home.”

But Mr Harper, a familiar figure on a range of BBC TV antiques shows, added: “We fail to understand the significance of ivory in China.

“It is both a status symbol and represents good luck. It has been that way for thousands of years.

“Since the ban on selling plain tusks, the black market price has trebled.”

He said it would be far better to sell the royal ivory collection, which includes everything from a throne given to Queen Victoria to George IV's duelling sword, than to destroy it.

Echoing the views of other leading art figures, Mr Harper added: “I think the very idea of destroying artwork, almost for any reason, is bonkers beyond belief.

“The aim, of course is to try and stop elephant poaching, but as soon as you destroy something of value, the next item is suddenly worth more money.”

He sid he would happily sell the royal collection of ivory to the Chinese.

“Let them have it and take all of that money and do some good with it. Take it to Africa and help conservation and the African countries.

“I would love it if the campaign to sell ivory moved on. People I speak to would be so happy to donate the proceeds to such a good cause,” said Mr Harper.