Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wildlife

Japan’s Position on the Use of Ivory

In Japan, commercial trade of ivory (elephant tusks and its products) is prohibited in principle and is permitted only under specific conditions. These conditions are set for strict handling of ivory based on the Act on Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (ACES), in light of relevant CITES resolutions such as Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP18). To be engaged in the commercial trade of ivory, business operators must comply with numerous requirements including registration with tax and recordkeeping.

Some of you may wonder why we are operating such a complicated scheme to leave room for ivory use. Our lives are supported by animals and plants in all aspects, from food and livelihood to culture. Conf. 8.3 (Rev. CoP13) of CITES recognizes “that commercial trade may be beneficial to the conservation of species and ecosystems, and to the development of local people when carried out at levels that are not detrimental to the survival of the species in question”. In the elephant range states (countries where wild elephants live), people share land with elephants, which cause crop damages and human casualties, but at the same time may provide benefits including economic ones, therefore serving as valuable resources.

In some African countries with healthy elephant populations, citizen-participative natural resource management plans that aim to improve livelihood of local communities while conserving resources are adopted. These countries have proposed that profits of legal trade in ivory sourced legally and sustainably from elephants that died from natural causes or controlled as problem animals could be used for elephant conservation and local development. Supporting such countries is an obligation of the global community, pursuing conservation and sustainable use under CITES and CBD. As a member of the global community, Japan wishes to support the efforts of countries taking such approaches by using ivory based on ACES, thereby contributing to the elephant conservation and coexistence of the local people with elephants. If markets complying with laws are shut down, not only would the efforts of elephant range states that are striving for conservation through sustainable ivory use be jeopardized, but it would also vitalize black markets and promote poaching and illegal trade.

This is why it is all the more important to achieve the sustainable use of ivory by strictly regulating domestic ivory market under the scheme based on ACES in Japan, proving that domestic trade of legally imported ivory does not contribute to the poaching and/or illegal trade.