Stop Enabling the Ivory Trade, Environmental NGO Tells Yahoo


Tomomi Abe and Yuji Endo, The Asahi Shimbun

Date Published

Yahoo Japan Corp. has been slammed by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international nongovernmental organization, for allowing ivory traders to operate on its auction website.

The EIA plans to call on Yahoo to ban all trade in ivory from its site. The NGO also revealed the names of six companies it found to have engaged in illegal business practices related to ivory in Japan.

There has been a sharp increase in ivory products traded over Yahoo Japan’s auction site, according to the EIA. In 2005, there were 3,846 cases, but in 2015, the number jumped to a record 28,408.

The total value of the bids accepted in 2015 also hit a record high of more than 700 million yen ($6.3 million).

One Saitama Prefecture-based dealer sold an estimated six tons of ivory products between 2012 and 2015 for a total of more than 120 million yen.

In response to inquiries from The Asahi Shimbun, a Yahoo Japan spokesperson said: “Yahoo does not tolerate any form of illegal transactions, and it also does not tolerate any acts that can lead to poaching of elephants.”

The spokesperson added the company did not feel the need to ban ivory trade because it monitors the products offered for transactions around the clock.

In 2015, the EIA conducted an undercover investigation of businesses dealing in ivory. Over the phone, EIA members asked companies if they would buy unregistered ivory that the individual’s late father had owned.

Six companies said they would be willing to engage in illegal registration and trade of the ivory.

“Ordinarily we would not be able to do this, but we will buy it from you and register it without revealing your name,” one said.

Another company said, “We will use the name of an individual who owns a lot of ivory.”

A Japanese lawyer who has cooperated with the EIA says Japan could be one of the central places for illegal trade in ivory.

“The period when an increase was seen in transactions on the Yahoo Japan site is identical to when an increase was found in elephant poaching,” said Masayuki Sakamoto, the executive director of the Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund. “There is the possibility that the ivory from such poached elephants has entered Japan.”

An international ivory ban was put in place in 1989 under the Washington Convention for the protection of endangered species.

In Japan, trade in ivory has been allowed for items imported before January 1990. In such cases, the owner is required to register each tusk with the Environment Ministry. To register, the owner must submit certificates from family and friends and customs documents that show when the ivory was imported.