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

Japan’s Plan to Increase Ivory Trade Poses Threat to Success of China’s Domestic Ivory Ban

WASHINGTON DC – The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today accused the Government of Japan of planning to increase its ivory trade by launching a campaign to register ivory tusks that will directly threaten the success of China’s ban on domestic ivory trade. The government claims the new campaign is intended to “control” ivory trade.

“Japan’s tusk registration scheme is effectively a major laundering operation that enables poached ivory to be legalized and sold on the domestic market, without requiring any proof of legality of origin,” said EIA president Allan Thornton. “Over 8,000 tusks were registered between 2010 and 2015. Increasing registration just means that even more illegal tusks will be legalized for sale and the increased supply of illegal ivory in the Japanese market will be available for illegal export to China and Hong Kong.”

Japan is the world’s second largest consumer of ivory after China and has over 8,000 ivory retailers and 300 ivory manufacturers.

Last year EIA released undercover video of Japanese ivory traders boasting of selling large amounts of ivory to Chinese buyers for illegal export to China and Hong Kong. “You should have come two years ago,” said one trader, “all of the ivory has been sent from Japan to China.”

In October 2016, 180 nations including Japan, that are party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) unanimously agreed to a resolution calling for the closure of domestic ivory markets in countries linked to poaching or illegal ivory trade. Japan claimed it is not obliged to abide by the resolution despite extensive evidence of illegal ivory trade.

China, the biggest consumer of illegal ivory, announced on December 30, 2016 that it would enact a domestic ban on ivory trade that would be completed by the end of 2017. On March 31, China began this process by announcing the closure of 67 ivory facilities which included 12 of its 35 ivory carving factories and dozens of ivory retail stores.

Danielle Grabiel, EIA Senior Wildlife Campaigner, stated, “The registration of illegal tusks fuels Japan’s illegal ivory tusk and hanko trade and drives illegal exports of tusks to China, Hong Kong, and Thailand.”

“We are extremely concerned that Japan’s expansion of its ivory registration and trade will undercut China’s efforts to successfully close its ivory market,” Grabiel added.


Danielle Grabiel, [email protected]

Allan Thornton, [email protected]