Report by the Public-Private Council for the Promotion of Appropriate Ivory Trade Measures

Today, on September 16, the Public-Private Council for the Promotion of Appropriate Ivory Trade Measures (“Council”), participated by a wide variety of public-private stakeholders in Japan, published a report (“Report”) on the current state of ivory trade and the planned courses of future actions to be taken by the stakeholders in Japan.

*The English version of the Report will be published soon. We will update this post as soon as it becomes available.

Yahoo! JAPAN has served as the joint secretariat of the Council together with the Ministry of the Environment (“MOE”), Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (“METI”), and Japan Federation of Ivory Arts and Crafts Associations.

Yahoo! JAPAN highly values the close and constant communication through the Council which: keeps ivory trade in Japan sustainable; builds a new foundation to mutually share information and expertise among the stakeholders; and addresses challenges in an effective and coordinated manner. The Council has sorted out a broad range of facts and figures regarding the conservation of African elephants and ivory trade in Japan. Moreover, Yahoo! JAPAN is certain that raising public awareness of the facts delineated in this Council, both in and out of Japan, would clarify the incorrectness of the claims made by some organizations that ivory trade in Japan is triggering the poaching of elephants.

Participants from the government sector are: MOE and METI, which supervise the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of overseas communication and diplomatic negotiations; and law enforcement agencies such as the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Finance (customs). From the private sector, relevant operators, as well as TRAFFIC East Asia-Japan, an NGO which gains an international acclaim in the field of protection of wildlife, and researchers who specialize in this field, participate in this Council.

The Report covers a broad range of topics, but we would like to briefly introduce the following two points. First, the evaluation on the current state of ivory trade in Japan. Since 1989, when international commercial trade of ivory of African elephants was prohibited in principle, the market size of the domestic ivory trade has been in a declining trend. It is estimated to have shrunk to about 2 billion yen, 10% of its peak figure in 1989. In addition, the Report indicates that no large-scale smuggling of ivories destined to Japan is taking place, based on the low number of apprehension cases by Japanese customs and the evaluation of the Elephant Trade Information System (“ETIS”) of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”). In other words, since export/import of ivory is systematically banned and there are no signs of large-scale smuggling, ivories traded in Japan are, in principle, those that were legally imported before 1989. Therefore, the Report illustrates that the existence of an ivory market in Japan has no direct impact on the recent increase of the poaching of African elephants.

The second point covered by the Report is the countermeasures to be taken by the business operators of e-commerce, including Yahoo! JAPAN. As stated in “Yahoo! JAPAN's Measures and Views on Ivory Products in Japan“ announced this January, Yahoo! JAPAN does not allow any illegal transactions nor permit any conducts which lead to the poaching and extinction of wildlife in the transactions of ivory products in its e-commerce services (YAHUOKU! and Yahoo! Shopping). In the Report, Yahoo! JAPAN, together with Rakuten, Inc. and DeNA Co., Ltd., clarifies this position once again and reaffirms that the e-commerce business operators will continue to take voluntary measures including, but not limited to, active patrolling beyond legal obligations in order to completely eradicate any illegal transactions. Moreover, in addition to these measures to eradicate illegal trade, Yahoo! JAPAN is preparing to begin an initiative in which the effect of its measures can be objectively verified and transparency enhanced, in cooperation with NGOs.

However, as confirmed in the Report, while it is obvious that the ivory trade in Japan has no direct relationship with the poaching of African elephants, it is also true that there is a strong international concern about the number of African elephants which is apprehended to be in the level of extinction.

In reality, it is the protection of the species’ habitat, as well as the eradication of poaching, that are crucial for the conservation of endangered wild life species including African elephants. Loss of habitat forces African elephants into the living areas of the local people, causing significant damages to their crops. Meanwhile, agricultural land is expanding since there are no industries other than agriculture to depend on, encroaching the habitat of the elephants. Unless we face these realities, we cannot prevent poaching that is occurring as a result. The important course of action is to correctly face the realities and to come up with appropriate countermeasures. Groundlessly deflecting the cause of the poaching of African elephants to the Japanese ivory market is, in effect, neglecting the problem of poaching of African elephants by hiding the inconvenient truths.

Thus, in order to conserve wildlife species, economic incentives are called for so that the local communities can cover the cost of continuous countermeasures against poaching and prevent the habitat of the endangered wildlife from being converted into farmlands. Based on this understanding, Yahoo! JAPAN is preparing to provide measures that would contribute to the conservation of endangered species and biodiversity including, but not limited to, economic support to conservation initiatives in the respective states.

On the ivory issues, we have been asked why Yahoo! JAPAN continues to provide a marketplace for ivory products in its e-commerce services, amidst the international criticism on ivory trade. However, we would like to underscore that we are in no way placing a special emphasis on ivory trade in order to protect its transactions. Nor do we think that the conservation of biodiversity is meaningless.

The value that Yahoo! JAPAN strives to protect is “respect for diversity”, biological diversity as well as cultural diversity of each country and region. Cultures and traditions distinctive to countries and regions continue to exist even when Internet facilitates global movement of information and accelerates the mixture of various values in the world. While global Internet giants operate under a unified policy across the world, Yahoo! JAPAN aspires to be a Japanese Internet company that respects Japanese culture. This underlying concept applies to ivory trade in our e-commerce services. Although it goes without saying that the first prerequisite is to completely exclude illegal trade in our services, we believe it is our responsibility to keep providing a free marketplace for trade in ivory, as far as it complies with CITES and relevant Japanese laws, and does not endanger the conservation of wildlife species.

Yahoo! JAPAN will continue to respect diversity – whether biological or cultural – based on objective and credible evidence and relevant laws.