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The African Elephant Coalition (AEC) has called for the closure of ivory markets in Japan, saying they contribute to poaching in Africa.
This clarion call was made at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference in Lyon, France, which will end on Friday.
Dieudonné Yameogo, Director of Wildlife and Hunting Resources in Burkina Faso, said they stressed that any legal market offers an opportunity for laundering ivory and can therefore contribute to illegal trade and poaching.
In 2016, a recommendation was adopted to close ivory markets in ivory-consuming countries such as Singapore, the United Kingdom, China, the United States and Japan.
A resolution was then passed in 2019.
CITES resolution 18.117 of 2019 states that “Countries that have not closed their domestic markets in raw and worked ivory are requested to report to the Secretariat for consideration by the Standing Committee… on what measures they are taking to ensure that their domestic ivory markets are not contributing to poaching or illegal trade”.
At the meeting in Lyon, Japan was singled out as a country that had done nothing to close its ivory markets.
“Based on the information we provided on the Japanese ivory market and its contribution to illegal trade in ivory, we feel that decisions 18.117 to 18.119 have not been fully implemented,” added Yameogo.
Japan was, therefore, required to report to the Secretariat for close monitoring of its ivory trade.
The AEC said when the CITES Conference of the Parties (COP) meets in Panama in November it must uphold resolution 18.117.
“Those parties which have not yet closed their domestic ivory markets must continue to report on the situation until matters have been completely resolved. We feel that these decisions should be renewed at COP19 rather than deleted. And in conclusion, we would remind countries with markets that are still open such as Japan that they must close those markets,” said Yameogo.
Speaking at the same meeting, Masayuki Sakamoto, executive director of the Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund, said Japan’s controls were ineffective in curbing illicit trade.
“As we know, legal domestic markets stimulate demand for ivory and provide an opportunity to launder ivory into international trade.
“Despite recent amendments, Japan’s ivory controls remain ineffective at preventing illegal ivory exports sourced from Japan’s legal markets, and its market contributes to illegal trade. We have unfinished business. Therefore, we agree with previous interventions by the parties calling for the Standing Committee to recommend COP19 to renew 18.117 to 18.119 and urge Japan to close its domestic ivory markets,” he said.
Smugglers purchase ivory products in Japan and then smuggle them to China and other countries where demand is high.
In China, ivory is used in traditional Chinese medicine, while in many parts of the world it competes with gold in making expensive ornaments.