Save the elephants from the threat of ivory consumption in Japan


In November 2008, based on the approval by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the auctions of ivory managed by the government of four southern African countries were held for exporting ivory to Japan and China. In 2009, 39 tons of ivory was exported to Japan which was part of the one-off sale approved by CITES for the first time after 10 years and with the strong requirement from Japanese and Chinese government and their ivory manufacturers. The consumption of the ivory name seal stump or "hankos" is expected to grow in Japan promoted by the ivory businesses. However, once the demand of ivory consumption increases, many illegal importers would flock to buy cheap poached ivory with high quality. There was the concern that elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade will increase after the sale.. Eventually, after the auction approved by CITES, rapid increase of ivory smuggling were reported in Africa and Asia. The amount of confiscated ivory was equivalent to about 1,600 elephants only in the period from March to May in 2009. But the amount of ivories which were crackdown and confiscated is said to be only the tip of iceberg, and the actual number would be more than 11,000. We assume that the revealed rate may be only 15%.
The elephants poached for their tusks were 100% killed. We can clearly say that we, Japanese consumer have the responsibility for the elephants fate.
"If we don't buy, they wouldn't be killed."

Japanese involvement to the ivory trade
The trade history shows that Japan started to import ivory around 6th century from China in the form of ornaments. The old ivory products were collected in Shosoin, an Imperial Treasury built in the eighth century, in Nara. However, in 16 century, it seems that the ivory was imported as raw material and ivory manufacturing began in Japan. Around that time they were consumed only by limited number of people. After that, Japan broke off relations with the outside world and ivory import was suspended. However, after the resumption of import with limited number of countries, the demand of ivory was increasing and the ivory products such as charm, comb, chopsticks and tea pot were consumed by wealthy people. In and after the Meiji era(1868-1912) , the import volume of raw material ivory had been going up.

Since the beginning of 1960's, the volume of ivory import increased because of the mass production of ivory products, especially "hankos". The averaged volume of raw material import was 255 tonnes in 1970's and 270 tonnes in 1980's equivalent to 10,000-20,000 animals. The figure became more than 470 tonnes in 1983 and 1984. The number of raw ivory imported legally by Japan from 1979 to 1988 was about 2,727 tonnes. This figure was equivalent to about 120,000 elephants. Japan became the largest ivory importer in the world ahead of the western nations and the other Asian nations. 60 percent of imported raw material was manufactured into "hankos" and about 2 million ivory "hankos" was manufactured every year in 1980's.


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