Largest online retailer in Japan bans ivory sales

Rakuten, the largest online retailer in Japan, has banned ivory sales on its platform.

The policy change, which went into effect at the beginning of July, solidifies the e-commerce company as a global leader in combatting illegal wildlife trade. Rakuten has also banned sales of sea turtle, whale and dolphin parts. The ban of ivory comes not a moment too soon: Rampant ivory poaching—just one facet of this trade—has put elephants in danger of regional extinction. Simultaneously, traffickers pack a vicious double punch by imperiling ecosystems and undermining national security.

For years, criminals and unscrupulous traders have used the internet to dodge the law and reach worldwide audiences. IFAW’s investigative reports (from the 2008 release Killing with Keystrokes to 2014’s Wanted: Dead or Alive) have exposed the web as a huge venue for wildlife sales, drawing the attention of law enforcement officials and the industry alike. Enforcement agencies in countries including China, the U.S., the UK, France, Germany and many others have taken encouraging steps to crack down on traffickers, but without the cooperation of online retailers, the effort to stop these crooks will continue to be thwarted. Despite shutting down individual sales or traders, other operations will pop up elsewhere.

We need to disrupt the supply chain that traders rely on. The fewer places to sell tusks and ivory carvings, the less profit there is and the greater chance for wild elephant survival. Rakuten’s new policy sends a loud signal that trafficking will not be tolerated, and the company deserves a great deal of credit for taking such a decisive step.

This policy shift is an echo of the actions of other online e-commerce giants like eBay, which introduced a global ivory ban on their sites back in 2009. In the same year Alibaba banned all online postings of elephant ivory, rhino horn, shark fins and the parts and derivatives of sea turtles, tigers, bears and other protected wild animal and plant species from their online marketplace. The Chinese online marketplace Taobao also banned the sale of all species listed on the Endangered and Protected Species Act in China & CITES Appendices I, II and III. While in 2013 Etsy banned the sale of ivory and other wildlife products and in 2015 Tencent, owner of WeChat and QQ, launched “Tencent for the Planet. Say No to Illegal Wildlife Trade”.

On World Elephant Day 2016 seven companies, including eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, Microsoft, Pinterest, Tencent and Yahoo! adopted a global, standardized wildlife policy framework that simplifies shopping guidelines for consumers, identifies prohibited products and eliminates the loopholes that make it easy for criminals to traffic wildlife online.

Rakuten is the Japanese word for “Optimism” and that moniker couldn’t be more appropriate in light of this development. We look forward to working with them in the future to enlist more support and make the future even brighter for animals around the globe.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy