Ivory Trade: Man Arrested in Tokyo Port
Police in Japan have arrested the director of a government-accredited ivory retail outlet on suspicion of attempting to smuggle ivory to China. The move came after a Chinese seafarer was found attempting to board a vessel in Tokyo Port while in possession of 605 pieces of ivory.
Under current Japanese legislation domestic trade in ivory is still allowed. However, international export is not permitted, because it is contravention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department are to be congratulated on this important case, and although it is still under active investigation, the information released to date clearly undermines the government’s claim the Japanese domestic market is strictly controlled,” said Tomomi Kitade, Head of the NGO TRAFFIC’s Japan Office.
Ivory Towers, a TRAFFIC study released in December 2017 warned of the weaknesses in government oversight of the domestic ivory markets in Japan and the possibility it would result in illegal cross-border trade. The report, compiled with the support of WWF, reveals the growing trend for ivory in Japan’s domestic antiques and tourist markets to be routinely purchased by visitors and agents for illegal ivory exports.
Covert interviews with ivory vendors found that 73 percent were actively promoting purchases that lead to illegal ivory exports, even giving advice to visitors on how best to conceal ivory products without permits in luggage.
The study’s findings are supported by a review of seizure records which reveal a significant increase in illegal ivory exports from Japan, reaching a total of 2.42 tons of ivory seized between 2011 and 2016.
“Japan’s failure to regulate its domestic ivory market is not consistent with the international efforts currently underway to protect the world’s elephants from poaching,” said Gavin Edwards, WWF Coordinator, Initiative on Closing Ivory Markets in Asia.
Last month, Hong Kong Legislative Councilors voted to ban ivory sales in the former epicentre of the global ivory trade. The local trade will be gradually phased out over the next three and a half years. The move came just one month after China shut down all commercial processing and sales of ivory at the end of 2017. Thailand has severely restricted trade and is considering a ban, making Japan the largest open market for ivory.