In a recent report on the online trade of ivory in Japan, environmental conservation group Traffic concluded that operators of e-commerce websites are not doing enough to crack down on illegal sales of items made from elephant tusks, urging the government to strengthen restrictions.
While praising the autonomous measures taken by online retailers, the group recommended that operators consider banning ivory trade completely.
“As a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) party, Japan has an obligation to fulfill these requirements effectively to ensure that domestic trade in ivory does not contribute to poaching or to illegal trade,” it said in the report published Tuesday.
The report also disclosed the results of research conducted in May and June on ivory sales made via online platforms including Rakuten Ichiba and Yahoo Shopping, auction website Yahoo Auctions, and customer-to-customer markets Mercari and Rakuma.
The report found a “considerable volume” of ivory sales, given that 9,788 items were sold on Yahoo Auctions during the four weeks of monitoring. Meanwhile, 573 new items were advertised on Mercari.
In Japan, the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora prohibits the trade of whole pieces of ivory — unless the sale is registered with the Japan Wildlife Research Center after the seller proves that the item was imported before CITES banned international trade in 1989.
In addition, businesses must notify their regional Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry if they want to sell items made from ivory. Individuals are not required to do so.
According to the report, in 2014 only 11 percent of businesses on Yahoo Auctions and 22 percent on Rakuten Ichiba notified bureaus that they traded in ivory and listed their license numbers. The figure has since significantly increased, reaching 88 percent on Yahoo Auctions and 85 percent on Rakuten Ichiba.
However, items illegally imported into Japan were found on Mercari. And on Yahoo Auctions, it is possible that a fair amount of businesses masquerading as individuals have sold ivory without notifying trade bureaus, the report said, concluding that “the lack of regulation for products other than whole tusks was found to present severe challenges in identifying and preventing illegal ivory flows.”
The group urged the government to immediately introduce a system that allows the monitoring of all trade by businesses and individuals of products made using elephant tusks.
Rakuten Inc., operator of Rakuten Ichiba and Rakuma, announced on July 1 that the firm will no longer allow the trade of ivory.
Yahoo Japan Corp. said Tuesday on its corporate website that it has no plans to ban online ivory sales but stressed that it will continue strengthening crackdowns.
A Mercari spokesman told The Japan Times on Wednesday by email that the company is also strengthening crackdowns and will continue to monitor and remove illegal ivory items.
Traffic is a nongovernmental organization within WWF Japan — the local arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature — that specializes in investigating trade in wild animals and plants.
The report published Tuesday was an update to similar monitoring conducted in 2014.