Hong Kong Customs displays 82.5kg of rhino horns from South Africa and destined for Malaysia. Photo: ISD

EIA Condemns Japan’s Ivory Tusk Registration Campaign

WASHINGTON, DC – The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today condemned the Government of Japan’s decision to launch a nationwide ivory tusk registration campaign characterizing it as a large-scale amnesty of illegal ivory.

“The Government of Japan is not only promoting trade in illegal ivory to sustain its ivory traders, but is also sabotaging international efforts to ban the domestic ivory trade by China and other nations,” said EIA president Allan Thornton.

Japanese Minister of Environment, Masaharu Nakagawa, announced on August 29th that the ministry is launching a campaign to promote the registration of privately-held ivory tusks. A tusk must be registered with the government in order to be sold in Japan. The campaign is purportedly intended to gauge the size of the national stockpile, but the tusk registration regulations are weak and full of loopholes making it impossible to prevent illegal ivory from being registered.

EIA investigations in Japan have confirmed that illegal ivory trade is rife because the government does not require any meaningful proof of legality to register a tusk. Only ivory imported prior to the 1989 international ivory trade ban is legally allowed to be registered in Japan, yet the checks in place are virtually nonexistent. Many ivory tusks registered in Japan are cut up and made into hanko name seals and sold on online shopping sites.

“It is very telling that the Government of Japan is launching this campaign without making reforms to the ivory tusk registration scheme,” said EIA senior policy analyst Danielle Grabiel. “The government knows as well as we do that it is impossible to prove the legality of the vast majority of ivory in Japan.”

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police announced on June 20th that it had charged the president of antique company, Raftel, and 27 customers with violating Japan’s Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LCES) for illegal trade in unregistered ivory. According to news reports, Raftel registered 400-500 tusks over the past four to five years.

On August 24th, media reports confirmed that the Tokyo Police is planning to file charges against a total of 10 people and customers of the Ueno-based precious metal trading company “Flores” in Tokyo, under allegations of violating the Law on the Conservation of Endangered Species for trading in ivory.

In July, Japanese internet giant Rakuten announced a comprehensive policy change to end all sales of elephant ivory. Internet retailers Google, Amazon.com, Alibaba, and eBay have also banned ivory sales on all their sites globally, but Yahoo! Japan continues to sell large quantities of ivory tusks and hanko name seals.

Last year, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) unanimously agreed upon a resolution calling for the closure of domestic ivory markets in countries with legal markets linked to illegal trade or poaching. Japan has claimed it is not obliged to abide by the resolution, despite evidence that it has a considerable problem with illegal ivory trade.

EIA urges the Government of Japan to halt plans to launch its tusk registration campaign and start taking steps to close down its domestic ivory market.


Maggie Dewane, EIA Press Officer, [email protected], +1 (202) 483-6621