Save the Elephants lends voice to Tokyo ivory campaign ahead of World Elephant Day

Date Published

Image: Ivory stockpile in Kenya © Kristian Schmidt

Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya-based research and conservation organisation, Save the Elephants (STE), has today, August 11, 2020, added its voice to a worldwide campaign urging the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to ban ivory sales in the city.

STE joins international and Japanese environmental and conservation organisations in renewing their plea for Tokyo to protect Africa’s elephants by examining its trade in ivory and proposing measures to address it. The advocates are urging the Tokyo government to immediately start the Advisory Committee on Regulation of Ivory Trade, which has been suspended for six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Japan has the only significant legal market for elephant ivory left in the world today, and regulatory gaps provide cover for an illegal ivory trade. In March, Tokyo Governor, Yuriko Koike, received a letter from the coalition commending her ‘progressive action’ in setting up an advisory committee in January to explore measures to prevent illegal ivory and trade.  However, the committee was suspended following the Covid-19 pandemic and conservationists are now concerned the delay could derail the progress made so far.

In a letter to the Governor Koike, Save the Elephants’ Founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton, said that Tokyo had an opportunity to send a positive signal to the world ahead of the country’s re-scheduled Olympic games and that closing its legal markets would be looked on favourably by the international community.

Dr Douglas-Hamilton said: “The world has suffered an enormous blow from the Coronavirus as a result of our incursions into nature; but the shutdown has left many around the planet with a new renewed sense of our responsibility towards the environment. We therefore hope the postponement of the Games will not delay the progress of the Tokyo advisory committee on the ivory trade as momentum is still very much needed to address the problem.”

Save the Elephants joins the campaign in calling for the following proposals:

  • Prohibit the sale and purchase of ivory, as well as the display or advertisement of it for sale, within the Tokyo jurisdiction, as soon as possible through an Ordinance adopted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly;
  • Appeal to the Government of Japan to close the domestic ivory market nationwide pursuant to CITES Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP18);
  • Declare a Tokyo policy to pursue being an ivory-free international city and delivery of a guideline to be in effect until a ban enters into force, which advises the ivory dealers in Tokyo to suspend ivory sales in accordance with the Tokyo policy; and,
  • Implement an awareness campaign on the Tokyo policy and the regulation on ivory exports for Tokyo citizens and visitors.

It is hoped a ban on ivory sales in Tokyo will lead to a wider country ban across Japan.  Japan currently stands out as the only significant legal market for elephant ivory in the world, and the Government of Japan has inadequate regulations that provide cover for an illegal ivory trade. Japan’s ivory trade is also an international trade problem, undermining other bans on ivory trade. Since 2018, local authorities in China have made more than 65 seizures of ivory from Japan, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Says Iain Douglas-Hamilton: “Elephants – and ivory – are a very visible element in what is a much bigger challenge in the global battle to preserve biodiversity in the face of enormous pressures from wildlife trafficking and habitat loss. We hope Tokyo will take the urgent steps needed to end its ivory trade and help protect Africa’s dwindling elephant populations from further decimation.”

To read Iain’s letter to the Governor of Tokyo click here.

Find out more about the campaign here.

For more information and images, please contact:

Jane Wynyard
Head of Communications
Save the Elephants
+254 (0) 708 669 635

About Save the Elephants

Based in Kenya, Save the Elephants works to secure a future for elephants. Specializing in elephant research, they provide scientific insights into elephant behavior, intelligence, and long-distance movements and apply them to the challenges of elephant survival. Education and outreach programs share these insights with local communities as the true custodians of this rich heritage. The team works towards a future of harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. High-tech tracking helps plan landscapes while low-tech beehive fences, among other tools, provide farmers with protection as well as income. To battle ivory poaching, Save the Elephants teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Network created the Elephant Crisis Fund to identify and support the most effective partners in Africa and in nations with ivory markets to stop poaching, thwart traffickers and end demand for ivory.


Elephants in Samburu National Reserve in Northern Kenya © Robbie Labanowski/Save the Elephants