Save the African Elephant by Shutting Down the Ivory Trade in Japan

Every year, tens of thousands of elephants are killed for their tusks to supply the global demand for ivory. Japan has more registered dealers (more than 7,500), ivory manufacturers (close to 300) and ivory wholesalers (more than 500) than any other country. On the Yahoo! Japan shopping site, the retail value of ivory offered on a single day was U.S. $2.6 million.

Japan's neighbor China has committed to closing its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017 and is taking steps to fulfill that commitment, making Japan one of the world’s largest remaining domestic ivory markets. There have been many cases of ivory illegally trafficked from Japan to China. Continued ivory trade in Japan threatens to undermine the effort of China and the international community to combat wildlife trafficking.

Approximately 140,000 African elephants, or 30% of the total population, were slaughtered by poachers between 2007 and 2014. Elephant poaching and ivory trafficking continue to undermine economic livelihoods, social stability and the rule of law in African countries, many of which are Japan’s allies and trading partners.

Japan must renounce the ivory trade and ban ivory sales.

Dear Prime Minister Abe:

I am writing to urge you to help combat wildlife trafficking and save the African elephant by prohibiting trade of elephant ivory in Japan. Poaching has decimated African elephant populations and undermined the rule of law in many African countries. It is in the national interest of Japan to demonstrate solidarity with and support for its African trading partners and diplomatic allies by prohibiting elephant ivory sales in Japan.

Japan is one of the largest remaining ivory markets in the world, with a thriving ivory trade worth tens of millions of U.S. dollars. In the last decade, ivory items worth U.S. $27 million dollars were offered for sale on the Yahoo! Japan shopping site. Between 2012 and 2014 alone, at least 12,000 kilograms of whole tusks and tusk pieces were offered on Yahoo! Japan's auction site.

Anti-smuggling investigations and news reports show that ivory had been smuggled illegally from Japan to China, Hong Kong, Thailand and elsewhere. 80 percent of the traders were willing to engage in fraudulent registration of tusks and key Japanese ivory dealers have been selling ivory to Chinese buyers on a daily basis. Japan's thriving ivory trade undermines the international community’s effort to combat wildlife trafficking, especially in light of the imminent closure of China’s domestic ivory market.

The tide is turning, even in Japan. Rakuten, Japan's largest online retailer, has recently banned ivory sales from its e-commerce site.

Elephants are one of the most charismatic, intelligent and social animals that are synonymous with Africa's natural heritage. African elephants should not lose their lives only to be reduced to ivory trinkets and vanity items. I respectfully urge the government of Japan to heed the call of the global community and end Japan’s contribution to the blood ivory trade.

Thank you,

[Your Name]
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