SoftBank refuses to stop selling elephant, dolphin and whale products on Yahoo! Japan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wildlife advocates expressed bitter disappointment today at the refusal of international conglomerate, SoftBank Corp., to ban advertisements for elephant ivory and whale and dolphin products on Yahoo! Japan – the dominant company in SoftBank’s internet division with revenues of nearly USD 4 billion in 2012.

The announcement follows a letter sent in June by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Humane Society International (HSI) to SoftBank’s CEO Masayoshi Son. EIA and HSI appealed to him to direct Yahoo! Japan to join all other Yahoo! websites worldwide in banning the sale of these products.

EIA and HSI have yet to receive a response from the Japanese telecommunications and internet corporation giant, which recently concluded a USD 21.6 billion takeover of US cell phone carrier Sprint Nextel Corporation.

“SoftBank has a responsibility to millions of US Sprint customers who will be shocked to discover that SoftBank is profiting from the slaughter of elephants, whales and dolphins,” said Allan Thornton, President of EIA. “SoftBank must direct Yahoo! Japan to prohibit all such ads immediately to help protect Africa’s elephants and the world’s threatened whale and dolphin populations.”

“Tens of thousands of elephants, whales and dolphins are being killed each year to supply demand for their parts,” said Kitty Block, Vice President of HSI. “We urge SoftBank to end their role in this cruel and unnecessary slaughter.”

Today Yahoo! Japan lists almost 8,000 ads for elephant ivory, which have tripled in number since March after Amazon and Google enforced a ban and removed all ads for elephant ivory and whale products from their Japanese shopping sites.

Around 80 percent of the Yahoo! Japan ivory ads are for hanko (name seals used to sign official documents), many of which are thought to derive from illicit ivory tusks smuggled into Japan from Africa.

Yahoo! Japan also sells hundreds of whale products including internationally protected species such as fin whales illegally killed in Iceland, minke whales killed in the Antarctic whale sanctuary as well as Bryde’s, sei and sperm whales killed in the Northwest Pacific. Other ads feature products from whales brutally killed in the town of Taiji in southern Japan, made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.”

“We are mindful of SoftBank’s current efforts to expand its reach internationally. As you expand, however, so too does your international constituency and your need to address broader social responsibility,” stated the letter. “We hope that SoftBank Corp.’s direct contact with Yahoo! Japan will yield positive results when all the facts concerning endangered elephants and threatened whales and dolphins are presented and considered.”


  • It’s estimated that 30,000 elephants were killed across Africa last year.
  • Some 456,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales have been killed around the coast of Japan over the past 25 years. The hunted populations include rare, endangered and declining species and populations. Many dolphins have high levels of mercury contamination, which dramatically exceed Government of Japan limits for seafood for human consumption.