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Calling Japan to close its ivory market

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

With global attention on the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan has a unique opportunity to end the brutal trade of ivory which is pushing elephants to the brink of extinction.

Despite global leaders taking momentous steps in recent years to close their ivory markets, with the UK, USA and China leading the way, Japan’s ivory market remains open and continues to contribute to the illegal domestic ivory trade [1]

In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, Hillary Clinton and James A. Baker III have called on the Japanese government to close their ivory market noting that “Tokyo now has a singular opportunity to finally eliminate the sale and trade of elephant ivory in Japan while improving its reputation as a global leader and financial capital[2].

Whilst Japan has taken steps to amend its legal framework around the ivory trade in recent years, it still hosts the largest remaining legal market and has fallen far behind other global leaders. 

Pushing a species to extinction

In the past century alone, the population of African elephants has declined by a staggering 96% and as many as 30,000 are being killed every year for their tusks. This decline is largely fuelled by poaching, motivated by global demand for elephant ivory. 

According to DSWF’s conservation partner, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), at least 72 seizures of ivory routed through Japan were made between January 2018 and December 2020 [3]. Furthermore, a recent survey estimated that 19% of Chinese tourists travelling to Japan planned to purchase ivory [4]. This clearly highlights the continued role that Japan’s ivory market plays in the illegal international trade. 

An opportunity for change

With global attention on the Olympics, now is the time for Japan to take decisive action to close its ivory market, sending a clear message to the international community that ivory is not a commodity to be traded to the highest bidder. Such a move would be in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) which recommends that all nations with legal ivory markets that contribute to poaching close those markets “as a matter of urgency.” 

Learn more about DSWF’s work to close ivory markets and see how you could help.

[1] https://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/ivory-trade-in-japan-a-comparative-analysis

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/26/elephant-ivory-japan-hillary-clinton-james-baker/

[3] https://eia-global.org/japansillegalivoryexports

[4] https://globescan.com/ivory-consumption-among-chinese-travelers-preparing-post-covid-tourism/

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