Sunday 13 December 2015

Japan's inaction fuelling illegal ivory trade as demand rises, study finds

Investigators uncover widespread fraud which allows traders to register ivory as ‘legal’ despite coming from endangered sources

Thursday 10 December 2015 04.35 GMTLast modified on Friday 11 December 201500.01 

Japan is fuelling the trade in illegal ivory and undermining international efforts to protect Africa’s elephants by failing to crack down on illegal registration practices, according to a report released today.

Although Japan signed a 1989 convention banning the global trade in ivory, traders are registering tusks that are of undetermined origin, including those that could have been imported illegally after the ban, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said on Thursday.

One-off sales of ivory stockpiled before 1989 are permitted and trade in old ivory is also allowed, but those concessions also enable smugglers and traders to cover the illegal trade in tusks, according to conservation groups.

The UK-based EIA said its undercover investigation, conducted this summer, had revealed widespread fraud in the tusk registration system in Japan, where more than 5,500 tusks have been registered as “legal” over the past four years, despite doubts about when they were procured.

“Japan is awash with ivory of dubious origin and not a shred of real evidence is required by law to ensure that ivory is of legal origin and acquisition,” the report, Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade, said.

The EIA said that of 37 Japanese ivory traders approached by Japanese investigators posing as sellers of whole tusks, 30 offered to engage in illegal activities, including buying and processing unregistered tusks of unknown origin, and registering tusks using false information.

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