The Largest Online Platform For Elephant Ivory Sales, Yahoo! Japan, Announces Complete Ban On Ivory Trade

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Yahoo! Japan Corporation just announced a complete ban on ivory trade on all of its e-commerce platforms. The ban will enter into effect in November of 2019.

The news came as the 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18), that’s currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland, draws to a close, where elephant poaching and ivory trade issues have been in the international spotlight.

Yahoo! Japan’s announcement came following ongoing discussions with WWF Japan and careful consideration of the evidence accumulated through TRAFFIC’s regular monitoring of ivory trade on the company’s online platforms.

A TRAFFIC study released in 2018 identified Yahoo! Japan as the single biggest online platform for elephant ivory sales in Japan, recording a staggering 4,414 ivory items plus 35 whole tusks, exceeding USD $340,000 in total, sold over a four-week period from June to July 2018.

Seized ivory stockpile / Photo by HSI

Although domestic ivory trade in Japan is not prohibited, TRAFFIC’s ongoing monitoring revealed a lack of effective regulation over online trade, and evidence of both domestic and international illegal trade. Given the elevated risks of online trade, WWF Japan and TRAFFIC have been urging e-commerce companies to introduce a voluntary ban on ivory trade.

Companies including Rakuten, Inc. and Mercari, Inc. already heeded this call and adopted a ban in 2017, with GMO Pepabo, Inc. following suit in early 2019. Now the country’s internet giant, Yahoo! Japan has joined them, cementing the private sector’s efforts towards curtailing online ivory trade in Japan.

An investigation by The HSUS uncovered elephant ivory jewelry and collectibles of dubious origins, for sale throughout Massachusetts, raising concerns that Massachusetts is facilitating the illegal trade in ivory. Photo by HSI

“WWF and TRAFFIC welcome this critical step taken by Yahoo! Japan to align themselves with the global efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade online,” said Crawford Allan, TRAFFIC’s Senior Director on Wildlife Crime in a statement.

“We encourage companies from all regions to join global initiatives such as The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online to combine their forces in helping curtail online wildlife crime.”

An earlier TRAFFIC study found that regular buyers of ivory in Japan were visitors from China.

“Yahoo! Japan’s decision spells the end of Japan’s domestic ivory market in the near future. We applaud Yahoo! Japan for recognizing the irrefutable fact that any legal market serves as a convenient cover for the sale of illegal ivory, so it is hugely significant that their online platforms will no longer contribute to this devastating trade,” said Iris Ho, Senior Wildlife Specialist at Humane Society International in a statement. “We now call on the government of Japan to swiftly move towards the complete closure of its domestic ivory market so that the millions of international tourists who will descend on Japan for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games can visit a Japan that is free of the elephant ivory trade.”

During CoP18, Parties to CITES agreed on steps to examine if existing domestic ivory markets are taking sufficient measures to ensure they are not contributing to poaching or illegal trade. Progress in Japan will be closely monitored under CITES.

Facts provided by The Humane Society International (HSI):

  • Japan has more than 16,000 registered ivory retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers.

  • From 2011 to 2016 more thatwo tons of ivory from Japan was confiscated by Chinese authorities.

  • Japan’s ivory market facilitates transnational ivory trafficking and undermines the enforcement efforts of neighboring China, as well as other nearby countries that are closing their domestic ivory markets.

  • The African Elephant Coalition, representing 32 African nations, including elephant range states, is appealing to Japan to close its domestic ivory market.

  • Many countries and jurisdictions have announced or implemented measures prohibiting or restricting domestic ivory trade, such as: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Luxemburg, Belgium, China, Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan.

  • The Great Elephant Census found that between 2007 and 2014, poachers were primarily responsible for the killing of 144,000 elephants due to supply from the illegal ivory trade. African Savanna elephant populations experienced a 30% decline during this time, with only approximately 352,271 elephants remaining in the surveyed countries.

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