Four nations that are habitats for African elephants, including Kenya, submitted a bill to the Washington Convention’s permanent committee to address Japan’s ivory trading practices at the general meeting that starts in November. Japan, which continues to participate in the international ivory trade, is becoming increasingly isolated as other party nations including the U.S. and China are closing domestic ivory markets due to concerns over the possible extinction of elephants.
The bill submitted by Kenya, Burkina Faso, Congo, and Niger points out, “Many products are being traded with insufficient legal grounds.” Japan’s Ministry of Environment states, “[Our] market is managed appropriately. We will explain in detail the measures we have been adopting.”
Signatories to the convention adopted a resolution last year to close domestic ivory markets to prevent the extinction of elephants from poaching for ivory. According to the bill, the U.S. has banned the trade, China has closed some of its processing plants, and Hong Kong will aim to gradually shut down factories within five years. The European Union is also considering an all-out trade ban.
Meanwhile, Japan tightened controls of its Species Preservation Law in June of this year. It maintains its position that “[Our] domestic trade is unrelated to any poaching activity and does not violate the resolution.” However, the four nations jointly asserted, “There are ongoing concerns about the Japanese market,” citing the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network Traffic’s assessment that “there are loopholes in [Japan’s] regulations,” and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s unearthing of illegal trading by unregistered ivory traders last year (in the end there was no prosecution.)
“Japan’s position runs counter to progress in the international community,” explains Masayuki Sakamoto, attorney and representative of NPO Japan’s Tiger and Elephant Fund. “It is only natural that Japan be regarded with a critical eye by the rest of the world.”
The convention’s standing committee consists of representatives from six regions such as Asia and Europe, including Japan. Committee members run the Conference of the Parties held once every three years.