Global Conservation Coalition Appeals to Japanese Prime Minister to Ban Domestic Ivory Trade

To read this release in Japanese, please [click here].

Washington, D.C.—On the eve of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic address to the U.S. Congress, [conservationists urged him] to join the global fight to save Africa’s elephants. Twenty-four groups from Africa, Japan, the United States, and Europe urged Abe to enact immediate measures to ban domestic trade in elephant ivory products to help reduce large scale poaching of African elephants.

Between 2010 and 2012, an estimated 100,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory tusks.

Japan has the largest known ivory stockpile at over 340 metric tons. It also has the world’s largest number of ivory traders, at over 7,570, and the two biggest internet sellers of elephant ivory. Rakuten and Yahoo! Japan host thousands of ads that offer elephant ivory for sale, much of it illegal, according to a statement sent by the groups to Prime Minister Abe today.

Since 1970, ivory from more than 250,000 elephants has been imported into Japan—much of it from illegally killed wild elephants. According to the groups, Japan has consistently failed to comply with the ivory controls required by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They point to a Japanese government scheme that allows poached ivory to be registered without sufficient evidence the tusks were legally acquired.

WildAid Executive Director Peter Knights said today, “Demand for ivory from Japan continues to drive ivory poaching in Africa and the government must do much more to reduce it. When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

The groups called for an immediate ban on the sale of ivory “name seals” called hanko, and an end to all internet sale of ivory. They also demanded an immediate end to Japan’s system of registering ivory tusks, giving legal status to undocumented and illegal ivory allowing it onto the Japanese market. In 2014, over 1,800 tusks were “registered” in this way. Since 2011 5,600 tusks weighing over 50 metric tons were “registered” representing over 3,100 dead elephants.

Environmental Investigation Agency Senior Policy Analyst, Danielle Grabiel said, “The only way Japan can demonstrate that it is serious about saving Africa’s remaining wild elephants is to ban the domestic trade in elephant ivory.”

The appeal comes as the United States moves to ban most domestic ivory trade. Several states including New Jersey and New York have already enacted statewide ivory trade bans. Similar appeals have been made to China and Hong Kong, which are also major centers of illegal ivory trade.

Dr. Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect said: “We hope Prime Minister Abe will help stop the heartbreaking slaughter of Kenya’s elephants by banning Japan’s domestic ivory trade.”

Rob Brandford, Executive Director of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, said: “The ivory trade is a global issue and while much attention is focused on other markets, Japan has more ivory traders than any country in the world. Demand for ornaments cannot be allowed to overtake the preservation of life – we call on Prime Minister Abe to urgently ban the domestic trade in ivory.”

To read the coalition’s statement in [English] or [Japanese].


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