Yahoo! JAPAN’s initiatives towards the eradication of illegal ivory trade

On August 8, TRAFFIC Japan Office (TRAFFIC), an NGO that monitors and surveys wildlife trade, published a report titled “An Updated Review of Online Ivory Trade in Japan”. We think the research results show the efficacy of Yahoo! JAPAN’s initiatives to eradicate illegal ivory trade on its e-commerce services, and the significant increase in the proportion of legal ivory trade.

As stated in our past Public Policy Blog, Yahoo! JAPAN’s basic view is such that it has a zero tolerance policy towards any illegal ivory transactions and that it does not condone any conducts which lead to the poaching and extinction of elephants even if the transactions are legal at this point in time. We hereby introduce the initiatives taken by Yahoo! JAPAN based on such policy, in concert with NGOs and relevant Ministries and Agencies towards the eradication of illegal trade.

1. Dramatic improvement in legal compliance in e-commerce transactions
TRAFFIC reports that the following significant improvements can be observed in the ivory transactions in the e-commerce services of Yahoo! JAPAN (YAHUOKU!, auction service, and Yahoo! Shopping).

(1) Confirmed legality in all sample transactions of whole tusks that were concluded
Of the 27 whole tusks listed in the e-commerce services of Yahoo! JAPAN at the time of TRAFFIC’s survey, 23 tusks were confirmed to be accompanied by registration cards. Measures were also taken for the four remaining tusks whose registration cards were not confirmed, such as removal from exhibits before the transactions were closed. In other words, in all concluded sample transactions of whole tusks that were subject to the survey in the e-commerce services of Yahoo! JAPAN, accompaniment of the registration cards and the legality of the transactions were confirmed.

“The higher rate of compliance with the registration card system on Yahoo reflects the concerted effort by that company to conduct regular monitoring of whole ivory tusks to ensure registration. In fact, every whole tusk found with keyword “hon-zouge (genuine ivory)” in Yahoo Auction’s successful biddings records had a registration card, highlighting the effectiveness of their monitoring programme.”
Excerpt from TRAFFIC “An Updated Review of Online Ivory Trade in Japan” P.6

(2) Significant improvement also in processed ivory products
 Next, the report states that dramatic improvement in legal compliance can also be observed in the transactions of processed ivory products. In the survey, 21 business operators out of 24 that listed ivory products in YAHUOKU!, and 55 business operators out of 58 that listed ivory products in Yahoo! Shopping, notified their business as a specific international species business based on the Law for the Conservation of the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (LCES). Yahoo! JAPAN has already conducted measures such as removal of the listed ivory products, towards the business operators who had not made notifications at the time of the survey.

“Comparison with 2014 data revealed a significant improvement in the LCES compliance regarding obligatory business notifications”, “This significant improvement comes as a result of monitoring initiatives taken by e-commerce companies following the publication of TRAFFIC’s first report in 2014.”
Excerpt from TRAFFIC “An Updated Review of Online Ivory Trade in Japan” P.5

As is referred to in this report, e-commerce operators, including Yahoo! JAPAN, have conducted various voluntary measures to eliminate illegal ivory trade which have led to effective results, and these results have been positively evaluated. In fact, after the release of TRAFFIC’s survey report ”A Review of Online Ivory Trade in Japan” in January 2015, Yahoo! JAPAN has continued to conduct various measures based on the report, to eradicate illegal trade on its services, such as awareness raising towards its sellers, strengthening of listing rules (introduction of rules that have stricter standards than LCES), reinforcement of patrols, etc.

Yahoo! JAPAN’s efforts, which have received a certain level of positive evaluation in this report, could not have been accomplished by Yahoo! JAPAN alone, but were attained due to continued collaborations with NGOs and related Ministries and Authorities that have jurisdiction over regulations such as LCES. Yahoo! JAPAN will resolutely uphold its zero-tolerance policy against any illegal transactions, and will proactively conduct measures that can be taken in order to conserve species in collaboration with NGOs and related Ministries and Agencies.

2. Remaining issues and countermeasures
Meanwhile, the TRAFFIC report points out the possibility of sellers that seem like business operators to be trading ivory as individuals in the e-commerce services of Yahoo! JAPAN without registering themselves as business operators. To address this issue, Yahoo! JAPAN has conducted measures towards exhibitors who appear to be selling ivory products for business, to obligate the display of its business notification number upon registering as a business operator. Moreover, Yahoo! JAPAN has made efforts to promote business operator registration and the acquisition and display of business notification number to exhibitors who have been informed by the related Ministries and Agencies and NGOs. These efforts are voluntary measures taken by Yahoo! JAPAN, beyond the scope of legal obligations.

Furthermore, from August 1, 2017, Yahoo! JAPAN has newly strengthened its measures towards this issue. More specifically, Yahoo! JAPAN has decided to take measures towards individual sellers that exhibit a large number of ivory products to remove exhibits if there is no business registration and display of the business notification number. In addition, Yahoo! JAPAN’s patrols have been reinforced. Yahoo! JAPAN regards that these measures will be effective in addressing the issues pointed out in TRAFFIC’s report. However, Yahoo! JAPAN will carefully verify the results through continuous analysis of objective facts and data.

3. Conservation initiatives: Supporting the anti-poaching activities in Namibia
As we have introduced in our past Public Policy blog, legal ivory transactions in Japan that comply with LCES, deal with ivories that were mainly imported to Japan before 1989 and used in Japan. Therefore, ivory transactions within Japan are not directly related to the poaching or the decrease in the population of African elephants which are currently matters of growing concern. We regard that protection of African elephants in their habitat, that is conservation of the habitat and anti-poaching measures, are truly called for in order to stop the decrease in the population of African elephants. Based on this view, on March, 9, 2017, Yahoo! JAPAN has donated JPY 5 million (approx. US$ 44 thousand) for the construction of the Anti-Poaching and Wildlife Crime Enforcement training camp in Etosha National Park, one of the largest parks in Namibia, through UNDP Namibia. Part of Yahoo! JAPAN’s revenue derived from ivory transactions in e-commerce has been contributed to the conservation of African elephants. This is an initiative aimed to conserve African elephants through “Sustainable use”.

4. Future measures and our view
Moving on, Yahoo! JAPAN will continue its zero-tolerance policy towards illegal transactions of ivory in its e-commerce service, and will in no way allow transactions that will lead to the poaching or extinction of African elephants regardless of their legality. At the same time, for appropriate ivory transactions that comply with the CITES(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)and LCES and that do not jeopardize the conservation of species, we regard that it is our responsibility to provide a marketplace that allows the free participation of sellers and buyers.

Moreover, it is vital that logical judgements based on objective facts and data are continuously made, in order to protect the two important values of preservation of species and provision of free trade. In order to determine what is needed to conserve African elephants and other wildlife species, various complex and entangled factors, such as the situation of the species and population in question, the lives of people in the habitat, actual situation of poaching and illegal trade and their impacts on the conservation of species, must be scrutinized based on scientific grounds and data.

Based on various data and facts that can be confirmed at this point in time, we cannot reach the conclusion that the domestic market in Japan is contributing to the poaching and reduction in the population of African elephants, nor do they lead us to the conclusion that legal ivory transactions should be banned in Yahoo! JAPAN’s e-commerce services. However, through collaborations with NGOs and related Ministries and Agencies and based on scientific grounds and data, we will maintain the state in which ivory trade conducted in our services does not jeopardize the conservation of species, without being overconfident of our attainments. Furthermore, while Yahoo! JAPAN will continue to make these efforts as a private entity, Yahoo! JAPAN will urge the Japanese government to conduct survey on legal compliance, to disclose statistics, to make effective communication strategies towards international debates and foreign media, as well as to consider further system revisions if needed.

Japanese translation of this post is here.

Text (N・Y / Y・K)
Photo (T・H / Y・K)