Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wildlife
Japan’s Regulation on Domestic Ivory Trade and Restrictions on Taking Ivory Outside of Japan
Elephant ivory trade (including whole tusks, cut pieces and ivory products) is restricted by CITES and by Japanese laws. Import/export between Japan and other countries and domestic trade are prohibited in principle.
CITES is a convention to protect endangered wild animals and plants from over-exploitation by commercial trade. In Japan, the trade of live animals and plants (including elephants) and products made from them, including ivory, is restricted by the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act for international trade (import/export), and by the Act on Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (ACES), for domestic trade. Penalties exist for those who violate these laws.
In Japan, commercial domestic trade of elephant whole tusks, cut pieces and ivory products is prohibited in principle.
In Japan, trade (i.e., to sell, buy, give, receive, lease, lend, rent or borrow, regardless of whether any fees or payment exist) of elephant whole tusks (including raw ivory)* and worked ivory made from them is prohibited in principle. Commercial trade is allowed as an exception only when cut pieces and ivory products are to be obtained from a registered business, or when whole tusks registered in the past is to be exchanged together with its original registration documents.
The amended ACES which includes stricter regulations for business operators involved in domestic ivory trade entered into force on June 1, 2018. The following are the key requirements of the amended ACES:
- Registration of businesses interested in manufacturing and sales of ivory products. Applicants are screened through the registration process. Once registered, the registration is valid for five years, and then is subject to renewal every five years. If registration is revoked due to the violation of ACES and its regulations, re-registration will not be permitted for the next five years.
- Mandatory registration of whole tusks owned by business operators.
- Obligation to keep records on inventory of whole tusks from which cut pieces etc., were sourced.
- Mandatory display of information such as business operators' registration numbers at the time of sales and advertising of ivory products.
- Publication of registered business operators list.
- Penalties for business operators involved in domestic ivory trade violating the law. (Introduction of imprisonment with labor and a significant increase in fines, from the previous ¥500,000 to a maximum of ¥100,000,000.)
* A “whole tusk” is a tusk (polished or unpolished) or ivory product that retains a shape that makes it recognizable as a tusk, for instance, a gentle curve shape that gets pointier as you go towards the tip from the base.
Public-Private Council for the Promotion of Appropriate Ivory Trade Measures
Elephant whole tusks, cut pieces and ivory products cannot be imported/exported between Japan and other countries in principle.
Import/export of elephant whole tusks, cut pieces and ivory products is prohibited in principle. As an exception, those sourced from elephants caught before CITES became applicable* could be imported/exported under the following conditions:
- For importation, proof of acquisition date, and a certificate from the exporting country clarifying that acquisition took place before CITES became effective on the elephant(s) are provided and approved by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry;
- For exportation, document(s) which can prove that acquisition (or production) of ivory parts took place before CITES became effective on the elephant(s), document(s) which can prove sales routes after CITES became effective on the elephant(s) and other relevant documents where necessary are submitted. There are rigorously screened and approved by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
*For Asian elephants, a date before July 1, 1975, which is the date they became subject to CITES. For African elephants, a date before February 26, 1976, which is the date populations in Ghana became subject to CITES.