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EIA Demands Closure of Japan’s Ivory Market Following New Evidence of Illegal Ivory Trade

WASHINGTON, DC - The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is calling for the closure of Japan’s domestic ivory market after new evidence of illegal trade in ivory tusks was linked to the Ministry of Environment’s tusk registration scheme. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department recently announced it obtained evidence suggesting that government-contracted Japan Wildlife Research Centre (JWRC) and ivory trader “Raftel” colluded to illegally register ivory tusks.

The Tokyo Police announced on June 20th that it had charged the president of antique company, Raftel, and 27 customers with violating Japan’s Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LCES) for illegal trade in unregistered ivory. Media reports indicate that the Tokyo Police believe illegal trade in ivory is “rampant” in Japan. According to reports, Raftel’s president told police that he was following instructions from the JWRC to register the tusks on behalf of customers.

“Sadly, we are not surprised that the JWRC is being implicated in a scheme by ivory traders to register tusks illegally,” said Danielle Grabiel, EIA Senior Policy Analyst. “It appears that JWRC knew fraudulent documents were being presented by Raftel to gain legal status for illegal ivory but allowed Raftel to carry out registration anyway.”

EIA first reported in 2015 that Japan’s tusk registration scheme was rife with fraudulent declarations that allowed undocumented illegal ivory tusks to be legalized for sale onto Japan’s domestic market.

According to news reports, Raftel registered 400-500 tusks over the past four to five years. The Japanese Diet recently passed amendments to the LCES that were purported to strengthen the law, but the new changes do nothing to address the serious problems in the tusk registration scheme.

“Japan’s ivory tusk registration scheme is a poacher’s paradise, allowing vast amounts of illegal tusks to be legalized for sale on Japan’s domestic market," said EIA president, Allan Thornton.

The Government of Japan has announced its intention to launch an expanded tusk registration campaign nationwide that will increase demand for ivory in Japan, while legalizing large amounts of illegal ivory.

“To show it is serious about stopping its illegal ivory trade problem, Japan needs to cease all registration of whole tusks immediately as a step in closing its domestic ivory market,” said Grabiel.

Last year, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) unanimously agreed upon a resolution calling for the closure of domestic ivory markets in countries with legal markets linked to illegal trade or poaching. Japan has claimed it is not obliged to abide by the resolution, despite evidence that it has a considerable problem with illegal ivory trade.

“In light of the resolution recommending the closure of domestic markets and the problems illustrated by the Raftel case, Japan needs to act urgently to close its domestic ivory market. The recent LCES amendments are far too little, far too late,” Thornton added.

Maggie Dewane, EIA Press Officer, mdewane@eia-global.org, +1 202-483-6621

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