The government has announced a £44.5 million boost for anti-wildlife trafficking projects around the world.

Its ambition is to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants for ivory by at least one third by 2020 and to further halve this rate by 2024.

It will launch the Ivory Alliance 2024, bringing together a network of global leaders, conservationists and experts to engage with countries where ivory demand and trafficking is high. It will work with partners globally to increase the number of countries committed to domestic ivory bans to more than 30 by 2020 and for tougher enforcement against those caught breaking the law. The UK has had a domestic ivory ban in place since April 2018.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "More than 20,000 African elephants are killed every year, fuelling the despicable illegal ivory market and poachers’ dirty profits. We need immediate and effective global action to decapitate this terrible trade.

"We cannot simply sit back and watch as more endangered species are wiped out by criminal kingpins and corrupt middlemen who are robbing local communities in Africa and Asia of sustainable livelihoods."

Defra has announced £4.5 million for 14 new Challenge Fund projects to combat the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) by addressing demand reduction, strengthening enforcement and criminal justice, and providing alternative livelihoods.

Projects that will receive funding include supporting eco-guardians and community enforcement networks to protect elephants, a ‘payback’ scheme for the perpetrators of IWT and the development of strong room best practice guidelines for the storage of seized illegal ivory. There will also be funding provided to disrupt the poaching affecting iconic species such as Sumatran tigers and snow leopards.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: "Environmental challenges do not respect borders, and require coordinated international action.

Our Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund is driving change to combat this despicable criminality. The 14 projects range across 27 countries and showcase measures from criminal justice to education."

DFID and Defra have also helped secure an increase of up to £40m in international efforts to protect global nature including helping to end the wildlife trade over the next four years. This is through a 30% increase to the Global Environment Facility’s Global Wildlife Programme – the largest single program dedicated to combat poaching, trafficking, and demand for wildlife and wildlife products.

It will see more funding than ever before being spent on projects fighting the illegal wildlife trade across Africa and Asia, including tackling corruption, strengthening border law enforcement and promoting the development of nature-based tourism. It is through these long term solutions that this trade can be ended permanently.

The International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "The illegal wildlife trade not only puts the world’s most endangered species at risk, but fuels the corruption and crime which hold back development for some of the poorest nations."

Dominic Jermey, Director General of ZSL, said: "As an international conservation charity, ZSL warmly welcomes the UK government’s commitment to tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife across the globe is being slaughtered for its skin, scales, tusks and feathers. Whether it’s elephants or rhinos, African grey parrots or pangolins - IWT has put many species directly at risk. Fresh thinking is urgently needed by governments, working in partnership with NGOs, business and wider civil society, to tackle IWT. I’m delighted to see the UK committing to this leading role."