Arrests Made in Record Japan Ivory Haul

Thursday, February 8, 2007
Yarmouth Port, MA
Arrests have been made in the Osaka, Japan record-breaking elephant ivory seizure case of this past August. The confiscated ivory totaled nearly three tons, costing the lives of hundreds of endangered African elephants. Two suspects have just been taken into custody for their alleged violation of the international trade ban on ivory.
While claims have previously been made by the CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species) Secretariat that Japan no longer has significant involvement in the ivory trade industry, this 2.8 ton seizure clearly disproves such statements. IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) encourages the strictest penalties for those convicted in this crime, noting that the poaching of elephants has spiraled out of control in recent years and international law must be strictly enforced.
 
Given that the seizure took place in August 2006, the official reporting, which occurred in October, raises major concerns about the forthrightness of Japanese authorities. The failure to promptly disclose these events occurred at a time that was all too convenient for Japan, just up for their consideration to become a trading partner by CITES for ivory stockpiles. With the seizure under wraps, Japan was approved as a trading partner.
 
NGOs such as IFAW insist that this behavior cannot be ignored and that the trading partner status of Japan must be reconsidered by CITES. Fueled by a growing demand for ivory in Asian regions, the wholesale price of ivory in Japan and China has skyrocketed in recent years, going from $100/kg in the late 1990’s to the current staggering $750/kg.
 
The ivory found in this shipment is enough to create approximately 80,000 “hankos” (a Japanese letter seal), which is equivalent to roughly 40% percent of Japan’s annual consumption. Hankos are traditionally used by the Japanese to seal letters, and are representative of a certain status within society.
 
Between March 2005 and August 2006, over 26 tons of ivory has been seized, the highest ever in such a period since the 1989 CITES ban went into effect (which was later resanctioned). This single seizure has been identified as the largest ivory seizure ever in Japan.

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