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Stop Japan's Ivory Trade

To protect the world’s iconic elephants from the trade in their ivory tusks, the demand for and trade in elephant ivory has to end globally. Japan is an ivory consuming country with a long history and an active, open market today. Japan must recognize that legal ivory markets contribute to poaching and the illegal trade, and take steps to close its domestic market to the fullest extent possible.

Legal domestic trade in ivory stimulates demand and can incentivize the illegal sourcing of ivory, which can be laundered into a legal market and make enforcement complicated. Within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international commercial trade in ivory was banned in 1989, and in 2016 countries agreed to close domestic ivory markets that contribute to poaching or illegal trade. 

Yet Japan holds tight to its ivory trade, claiming that everything is under control. For years, EIA and ally Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund have demonstrated how Japan’s market controls are a farce and enable the trade in illegal ivory, and illustrated how Japan’s legal ivory trade contributes to the illegal international trade. Meanwhile, stakeholders, particularly from African elephant range states with elephants victimized by poaching, have appealed for the closure of Japan’s market for years. 

At the national level, the Government of Japan supports the commercial trade in ivory and its market controls are designed to regulate and facilitate trade, rather than to prevent or minimize it, and the regulations are full of loopholes. With a massive stockpile of ivory and thousands of government-registered traders, the government is sending a signal to consumers that it supports the trade in elephant ivory. 

Many industry stakeholders have acted in lieu of action from the national government, with leading e-commerce and brick-and-mortar leaders like Aeon, Rakuten, Yahoo! Japan, and Mercari, deciding to end the sale of elephant ivory products on their platforms. Tokyo is considering its next steps, separate from the Government of Japan, and action from Tokyo is still needed. But while more than 20 percent of Japan’s ivory traders are based in Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government can only do so much – action must also come at the national level. 

In the coming years, the Government of Japan will undertake a process to review, and hopefully amend, their Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (LCES, also called the ACES – A for Act) for the first time since 2017. Via this process, Japan has an opportunity to step away from supporting the ivory industry and towards true efforts to protect elephant species – going beyond attempts to control the trade and towards ending it. 

Japan is currently the world’s most significant open ivory market, but the government has the opportunity to change that status. EIA will continue to advocate for the end of all legal ivory trade, everywhere and at every level, in order to protect elephants.


Stop Japan Ivory Trade

In order to provide stakeholders and interested individuals access to information to learn more about Japan and ivory, EIA developed a website to serve as a resource home base. 

Check out, a new resource hub for all things Japan ivory trade.