Nature & Parks

Japan's View and Efforts in regard to Conservation of African Elephants and Trade in Ivory

Wildlife is not only a significant component of the ecosystem but also has been utilized as valuable resources which are essential to the bountiful life of humankind. We owe it to the coming generations and need to pass it onto the future by using wildlife in a sustainable manner and not driving it into extinction.

In this context, ivory, which has been imported from African and other countries, also has been used historically and culturally in Japan. In ancient times, it was used for daily commodities such as small sculptural object (called "netsuke"), samurai's pillbox (called "inro"), hair comb and chopsticks, and since modern times, it has been used as materials such as for name seals (called "inkan" or "hanko") and traditional Japanese musical instruments.

However, there were times when African elephant's population dropped drastically due to poaching and illegal ivory trade. Under these circumstances, in 1990, international trade in ivory was banned in principle under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). At the same time, a resolution adopted at the Conference of the Parties (COP) etc. under the Convention has indicated that returns from legal trade of wild fauna and flora based on sustainable use could provide funding for containing illegal trade and conservation of wild fauna and flora. Therefore, it is of concern that preventing sustainable use of African elephant could have adverse impact on its conservation.

In Japan, in order to enhance the effectiveness of the CITES which regulates the international trade in ivory and other designated species, the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (LCES) was enacted in 1992. Followed by amendments thereto, Japan established its control system for preventing illegal domestic trade in ivory and has endeavored to ensure its appropriate implementation.

As a result of these efforts, in 1999 and 2009, ivories obtained such as from naturally dead African elephants in some of the Southern African countries, where the population is considered as stable and has less risk of extinction, were imported to Japan under rigorous control in compliance with the COP decision of CITES. Registration of these imported ivories under the LCES immediately took place and their domestic trade is strictly controlled. All proceeds from the trade of these ivories are used exclusively for the conservation of African elephants and community development programs within or adjacent to the elephant range, pursuant to the rules under the Convention.

While continuing to achieve conservation of the African elephant, in order to enable its sustainable use, it is important that only legally imported ivory be traded appropriately under strict control within the imported country. It is up to every single person's compliance with the rules that prevent illegal trade and contribute to the conservation of wildlife including African elephants.

*The above efforts by Japan and its view were made public in a document entitled "View of Japan regarding Conservation of African Elephants and Trade in Ivory" at the 66th Standing Committee of CITES held in January 2016.

"View of Japan regarding Conservation of African Elephants and Trade in Ivory" (En)

FAQ on ivory trade

Strengthening of Management of Domestic Ivory Market Including Through Amendment of the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

The amended Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (LCES), which includes stricter regulations for business operators involved in domestic ivory trade, was enacted on June 2, 2017. It will enter into force approximately a year later (precise date is to be determined).

The outline of the amendment related to ivory is as follows:

a) The regulation of manufacturing and sales of ivory products, which is currently based on a notification system whereby a business operator is to report to the authorities its intention to engage in domestic commercial trade, will be changed so as to require a registration of business. Specifically, business applicants interested in manufacturing and sales of ivory products will be screened through the registration process. Once registered, the registration will be valid for five years, and will then be subject to renewal every five years. If registration is revoked due to the violation of LCES and its regulations, re-registration will not be permitted for the next five years.

b) Mandatory registration of whole ivory tusks owned by business operators.

c) Obligation to keep records on inventory (kanrihyou) of whole ivory tusks from which cut pieces etc. were sourced.

d) Mandatory display of information such as business operators' registration numbers at the time of sales and advertising of ivory products.

e) Publication of registered business operators list.

f) Stricter penalties for business operators involved in domestic ivory trade in violation of the law (introduction of imprisonment with labor and a significant increase in fines, from ¥500,000 to a maximum of ¥100,000,000).

In addition to the amendment of LCES, the situation regarding domestic ivory stock is to be assessed to the maximum extent possible through a campaign, which aims, above all, to promote the registration of whole ivory tusks owned by the individuals.

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

Purpose and Participating organizations