Mr. Junichi Yamada, Consulate-General of Japan, San Francisco
Mr. Konichiro Sasae, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America
Mr. Hiroshige Seko, Minister, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Mr. Masaharu Nakagawa, Minister, Ministry of the Environment
Mr. Kazuki Kitaura, Section Chief, International Strategy Division, Global Environment Bureau
The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, Inc. and March for Elephants commends the Japanese government’s recent actions to strengthen certain regulatory aspects of its internal ivory trade under the Law for the Conservation of the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (LCES). Even as we heartily applaud these efforts implemented in June 2017, we also urge Japan to take a stronger stand and establish a comprehensive domestic trade ban on elephant ivory. Every day that domestic trade in elephant ivory is legal in Japan, Japan continues to legitimize the desire for “luxury” wildlife “products,” stimulate demand and sponsor the killing spree of elephants throughout the African continent.
We also applaud Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten for banning ivory sales in August 2017. Rakuten sends a loud and clear message that poaching and wildlife trafficking will not be tolerated. The company deserves a great deal of credit for its courageous decision. AEON, one of Japan’s largest retail companies, with more than 50 malls across Japan, prohibited ivory sales in its directly managed stores in June 2015 and recently announced that it would expand its policy to all mall tenants, phasing out the sales of all its elephant ivory by March 2020.
In 2016, during the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Parties adopted a resolution (10.10) recommending that all members, in whose jurisdictions a legal domestic market for ivory operates, take immediate legislative, regulatory and enforcement measures to close such markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory.1 It is empirically provable that legal domestic markets lead to increased killings of earth’s last giants and correspondingly to criminal offenses related to wildlife trafficking and poaching. More than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been murdered in Africa within a decade of rampant poaching.
Japan’s ivory trade is extraordinarily active; within the span of two years, between 2012 and 2014, at least 12 tons of ivory, including whole tusks and cut pieces, were sold on Yahoo!, Japan’s Auction site.2,3 Japan has more ivory retailers (>8,000), ivory manufacturers (>300), and ivory wholesalers (>500) than any other nation in the world. In these years, tens of thousands of African elephants have been poached, annually, to satisfy the demand for ivory in Asia. Poaching for ivory, for both legal and illegal markets, pose the greatest threat to African elephants. Japan’s ivory trade is very much part of the problem.
It is widely recognized that all ivory markets fuel demand and contribute to the poaching of elephants. Reports by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)4,5 and a new report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC,6 shows that the ivory trade in Japan is largely uncontrolled, making it relatively easy for smugglers to launder illegal ivory on the legal market. Japan has repeatedly been criticized for its lack of controls, lax requirements for proof of legal acquisition and serious loopholes in legislation, all which fail to regulate the ivory trade. EIA’s report also indicates that evidence collected during its investigations confirm what seizure data over the past decade has repeatedly suggested: large quantities of ivory are being illegally exported to China and other nations, often after being purchased online.
Thanks to the diligent efforts by the global advocacy community and a progressive Chinese government, China7 and other countries have already taken steps to ban domestic ivory trade. Given this context, and the enlightened actions by Japan’s own commercial giants and other Asian nations, the global community and future generations call upon the government of Japan to be part of the solution. On behalf of Africa’s last sentient giants, its wildlife rangers and the people who are victimized by the ivory trade, it’s time for the Japanese government to enact a comprehensive ban on the domestic trade in elephant ivory.
Japan is an ancient, extraordinary and worthy culture whose good graces must not be sullied by an association linked to the extinction of a magnificent species and the killing of humans.
Let us, together, end poaching. May elephants live. May the wildlife rangers live. May earth live.
Thank you for your time and consideration.