Japanese Traders Offer Ivory Tusks to Chinese Buyers for Illegal Export

TOKYO– Undercover video released today by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) shows Japanese traders offering to sell ivory to Chinese buyers knowing the tusks would be illegally exported to China.

The shocking footage bolsters claims by EIA and other conservation groups that Japan’s domestic ivory trade is a front for illegal ivory exports that fuel the poaching epidemic ravaging Africa’s elephants.

“We sold so many ivory tusks that ivory has been vanishing from Japan” one trader boasts in the video. “So the price of ivory surged up because (the) Chinese bought all the ivory in Japan. Hong Kong people came here and I cut the tusks into three pieces for them to carry back. But now I don’t cut tusks myself as it may suggest I admit [illegal export].”

A second trader states “Illegal is okay. Unregistered tusks are okay. Unregistered tusks are better.”

The new evidence obtained by EIA investigators follows the release last December of an EIA report which documented widespread fraud and illegal ivory trade occurring within Japan ivory registration system. Eighty percent of 37 Japanese ivory traders offered to buy, sell, or fraudulently register an unregistered ivory tusk that did not qualify for registration, which is limited to legally acquired ivory before the 1989 ban on international trade in ivory by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Additional EIA evidence released in January exposed a Japan Wildlife Research Center (JWRC) registration officer advising an undercover investigator how to obstruct a police investigation if she was discovered trying to illegally sell an unregistered tusk.

“Japan’s ivory traders are knee deep in illegal activities in a government system that turns a blind eye to illegal ivory sales, fraudulent tusk registration, and illegal exports that violate CITES’ most important ivory controls intended to prevent the mass poaching that is devastating Africa’s elephants,” said Allan Thornton, President of EIA.

The new EIA video comes as the United States, China, Hong Kong, and France have committed to close their domestic markets to ivory trade. Proposals by the United States and ten African nations also seek to ban domestic ivory trade worldwide at the September 2016 CITES meeting of the Parties. The domestic bans seek to cause a dramatic reduction in demand for ivory that has fueled intensive elephant poaching across Africa.

“While China is busting criminals smuggling tons of illegal ivory tusks from Japan, no enforcement action is taken by Japan to prosecute ivory traders facilitating illegal ivory exports, nor to crackdown on the fraudulent registration of tusks which enables illegal ivory to be sold on the Japanese market,” said Danielle Grabiel, EIA’s Senior Policy Analyst.


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