Ivory Traders Linked to Yahoo! Japan Exposed in Illegal Ivory Activity

TOKYO—Six Japanese ivory trading companies that sell ivory via the popular shopping site Yahoo! Japan auctions offered to engage in illegal activities to buy, sell, acquire, or fraudulently register an unregistered ivory tusk. The companies’ culpable behavior is exposed in recordings released today by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. In Japan, it is illegal to buy or sell an unregistered ivory tusk.

The undercover recordings reveal Yahoo! Japan’s major role in facilitating illegal ivory trade and undercut recent claims that it can prevent illegal ivory trade on its site. While 30,000 African elephants are poached annually for their tusks, Yahoo! Japan Auctions and online ads continue to sell more than $10 million USD of elephant ivory a year according to EIA – more than any other online retailer in the world.

When contacted by an EIA undercover investigator offering to sell an unregistered whole ivory tusk, all six companies offered to engage in some form of illegal activity including: offering to illegally buy the tusk for use in the manufacture of finished ivory products, to resell the raw tusk, or to fraudulently register the tusk even though it did not legally qualify for registration. In Japan, only pre-ban ivory (ivory legally imported before the 1989 UN-imposed international ivory ban) may be legally “registered” and then sold. The investigator identified the six Japanese companies through their active sales of ivory on Yahoo! Japan’s auction site. Yahoo Japan is owned by SoftBank.

Allan Thornton, President of EIA, today appealed to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and COO Nikesh Arora to order Yahoo! Japan to ban all ivory ads and auctions in line with SoftBank’s policy of “protecting the earth for future generations.”

“In 2015 alone, Yahoo! Japan sold more than 400 tusks and two tons of cut pieces of ivory,” said Thornton. “EIA is appealing to the leaders of SoftBank to help protect Africa’s disappearing elephants by banning ivory trade on Yahoo! Japan shopping and auction sites.”

The six Japanese ivory companies include:

1) Daigo Ivory: sold an estimated six tons of ivory pieces worth over $1 million between 2012 and 2015, and is a member of the influential Japan Ivory Trade Association, said: “Here at our workshop we would quickly cut up the tusks as soon as we obtain them. We can carve up at least one tusk a day. We make it into hankos.”

2) Select, which stated: “We often use a ‘pre-determined route’ for registration using the name of a certain someone who owns lots of ivory.”

3) Gallery Ren, whose representative said: “We can purchase the ivory without registration and then we will register it later. It’s a common story. Unregistered ivory is supposed to be prohibited to sell but we actually do it under the ground and register it hiding the true ownership.”

4) Gotai Touchi stated: (In response to the question, “Can you take care of registration without my involvement?”) “Yeah, no problem.” Nevertheless, the situation will become complicated.”

“Illegal unregistered tusks are a major source of ivory for making hankos accounting for 93 percent of ivory ads on Yahoo! Japan’s shopping site,” said Danielle Grabiel, EIA Senior Policy Analyst. “Yahoo! Japan’s claim that it prevents illegal ivory trade is absolutely meaningless.”

5) Antiques Yasuo Kyoei-do said: “We can’t trade without registration but we can take it on behalf of you. We can prepare the paperwork and you can just sign on it. It is easy to get the registration.”

6) Antiques Hisada said, in reference to registration documents: “It is the easiest way to mention on the documents that you don’t know the background at all.”


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