Animal Welfare Organizations Urge Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike To Ban The Sale of Ivory Prior To 2020 Olympics

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One year before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, international and Japanese conservation organizations are appealing to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to ban the sale of ivory throughout the city. Japan boasts the world’s largest legal domestic ivory market, and its ongoing support for an industry that fuels the poaching of an estimated 20,000 African elephants each year threatens to tarnish the reputation of Tokyo and the 2020 Games.

The Environmental Investigation Agency U.S., Humane Society International, WildAid, Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund and Tears of the African Elephant urge the Governor to support international efforts to conserve and protect Africa’s rapidly declining elephant population by closing the ivory market in Tokyo prior to the start of the 2020 Games.

“Japan’s hold on its domestic ivory trade has the potential to divide nations just as the world comes together for the Olympics,” Allan Thornton, President of EIA U.S., said in a statement. “We strongly urge the Government of Japan to close its domestic ivory market and let the global community know it cares about Africa’s iconic elephants.”

The city is home to a significant proportion of Japan’s 17,000 registered ivory manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. With an estimated 10 million tourists expected to visit Tokyo for the games, there is a high risk that many visitors, either intentionally or unknowingly, will buy and illegally export ivory souvenirs from these shops.

As previously reported by WAN, in May, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City appealed to Governor Koike to follow New York’s lead and ban the city’s ivory trade. Thirty-seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives also appealed to the Government of Japan to join other nations that have committed to closing ivory markets in a letter they sent via Ambassador Shinsuke J. Sugiyama. In addition, on their own initiative, many private companies including: Rakuten, AEON, Ito Yokado, Mercari Inc., Amazon Japan, and Google Shopping Japan have ceased ivory sales or have announced their intention to do so before the Games begin.

Despite evidence of ongoing illegal trade that exploits loopholes in Japan’s regulations, its government has continued to support the domestic ivory trade. This position threatens to undermine bans in other jurisdictions like China, the United States and the United Kingdom. In China, officials have been ramping up their efforts and have seized an increasing number of shipments of ivory from Japan, making it clear that Japan’s domestic market is contributing to the illegal international trade. There has been more than 20 seizures of illegal ivory from Japan so far in 2019.

Japan’s ivory trade will face increased scrutiny at the 18th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), in Geneva, Switzerland, next month. 32 African nations that comprise the African Elephant Coalition are urging Japan and the European Union to close their ivory markets immediately.

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