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Rakuten and Ivory: Success for Elephants

In a major victory for elephants Rakuten Ichiba, Japan’s largest e-commerce company, ceased ivory sales on July 1, 2017. Starting in 2014, EIA led a campaign calling on Rakuten to end its sales of elephant ivory. Japan has one of the world’s largest domestic ivory markets, and Rakuten was once Japan’s leading online retailer of ivory products. A 2014 EIA investigation found that Rakuten’s website supported more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory items and offered a range of ivory products for sale including whole tusks and musical instrument accessories, though the vast majority of ivory products were hanko name seals.

Despite a landmark decision at CITES CoP17 in 2016 to close down domestic ivory markets, the Government of Japan has refused to ban ivory sales or acknowledge the role Japan plays in the illegal ivory trade and poaching of elephants. Instead, private sector companies like Rakuten have stepped up and taken matters into their own hands to protect elephants. Rakuten’s laudable decision to ban ivory sales demonstrates the important role that Japanese industry can play in the fight to save the world’s elephants.

Related Resources

Learn more about Rakuten’s decision to cease ivory sales by reading EIA’s press release and associated blog post

Check out Blood e-Commerce, our 2014 report on Rakuten’s ivory sales

Read about Japan’s domestic ivory market and how it contributes to elephant poaching and illegal trade in two of our earlier reports: Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade (2015) and The Dirty Secrets of Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade (2016)

Recent Blog Posts

Room for Improvement: Using DNA Analysis to Address Rhino Horn Trafficking
09/22/2021
Law enforcement officials from around the world have seized illegal supplies of rhino horn at least once a week on average for the past 10 years. The type of seizure ranges widely. It could be a pair of fresh horns confiscated from poachers who just gunned down a rhino inside a national park. Or possibly dozens of horns were discovered cleverly hidden in an air cargo shipment. Sometime it’s just a few grams of powdered horn found in a traveler’s luggage. Maybe a mix of raw and carved horns was seized after a police raid on a trafficker’s home.
Still Waiting for Action: Tokyo's Ivory Trade Assessment
08/11/2021
The reality of the scope and impact of COVID-19 hit home for much of the world when the Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed. A year later and looking far different than ever expected or hoped, the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games finally arrived. As the host of the 2020 Games, Tokyo has come under increased scrutiny for its legal market for elephant ivory. Even as the Games were underway, the influential capital city faced mounting international pressure to close its legal ivory market for good. For World Elephant Day 2021, in between the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, we take a look at where Tokyo stands in doing its part to protect the world's elephants from the threats of ivory trade and poaching. 

Recent Reports

Letter: NGO Appeal to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
06/25/2021
: EIA, JTEF, and HSI appeal to the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee President and Governor of Tokyo to take action to prevent illegal trade and export of elephant ivory products
NGO Appeal to Tokyo for Urgent Measures on Ivory
02/18/2021
EIA and 25 international non-government environmental and conservation organizations sent a letter February 18, 2021 to follow up on a previous appeal from March 2020. Our organizations encourage the closure of Tokyo's ivory market and also recommend some actions the Tokyo Metropolitan Government should take before the ivory market can be closed, including during the rescheduled 2020 Olympic Games. The letter can be viewed in English and Japanese.

Recent Press Releases

Tokyo Fumbles Short-Term Ivory Trade Action
06/25/2021
Conservation, environmental and animal welfare groups bemoaned measures announced today by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to address Tokyo’s illegal ivory trade as a missed opportunity. Tokyo’s short-term plan is focused only on consumer awareness and falls dramatically short of expectations for substantive action, instead replicating previous failed awareness efforts by Japan’s national government.
Japanese Retailers Willing to Sell Ivory Hanko for Illegal Export
12/17/2020
Investigations of Japanese hanko retailers revealed that many are willing to sell an ivory product knowing that it will be exported internationally despite most being aware that ivory export is illegal.
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