Ending Japan’s Role in the Ivory Trade
Japan has long played a prominent role in the illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching crisis. In the 1980s, Japan was the leading consumer of elephant ivory from Africa, most it from poached elephants imported through trade loopholes. The 1989 international ban on commercial ivory trade allowed elephant populations to recover from this crisis, but it was unfortunately undermined by two approved “one-off” international sales that confused consumers and stimulated demand for ivory.
Japan is the only country in the world that was permitted twice to import ivory purchased after the 1989 ban. Unfortunately, these permitted imports were never justified – Japan has been unable to control its domestic ivory system and illegal ivory continues to enter Japan’s domestic market. Today, Japan’s ivory trade remains problematic and while demand has dropped from the high levels of the 1980s, current demand levels are unsustainable and appear to be rising.
Though frequently highlighted as a model of domestic ivory control, Japan’s system is plagued by loopholes and undercut by weak legislation to such an extent that no meaningful control exists at even the most basic level. The volume of ivory being traded is on the rise, illegal activity is rampant, and abuse of the system is pervasive.