Nearly three tons of ivory torched in Japan

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Tokyo, Japan
A 2.8 ton ivory stockpile, confiscated in 2006 by Japan Customs in Osaka, has finally been incinerated – after previous reports that authorities were hesitating to do so. The record ivory haul represents the lost lives of hundreds of endangered African elephants. 
The initial confiscation of the ivory took place in August 2006, and represents the largest ivory seizure ever in Japan. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry indicates that the contraband was destroyed last month.
 
According to Michael Wamithi, Program Director for IFAW’s global elephants campaign, “IFAW is pleased that Japan did the right thing here. Destruction of the ivory is the only way to ensure the ivory will not end up filtered back into the marketplace. However, this is not where Japan’s responsibility ends. They also have to step up and take responsibility for getting their domestic markets in check, as well as ensure that justice is served through strong penalties in these types of cases.”
 
Wamithi is referring to the lenient sentence that was handed down just months ago to one of the two convicted in the Osaka case. The unidentified “company president” was reportedly sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term, and fined a mere USD $7K. The penalty imposed amounts to less than 0.1 per cent of the contraband's value.
 
"Japanese courts refuse to acknowledge the cost of this trafficking – which is the loss of approximately 20,000 elephant lives each year for the criminal trade. The leniency demonstrates why there is such an increase – for those who get caught, there is no risk of prison, and the fine is an insignificant cost of doing business," Wamithi added.
 
Japan’s ivory trade controls were examined and strongly criticized by IFAW in their 2007 report Fatal Flaw: The inadequacies of Japan’s ivory trade controls. IFAW reports that Japan’s ivory registration process is far from being complete, and several loopholes remain for illegal ivory to enter the legal domestic market.

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