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Monday
Jul102017

Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten to end online ivory sales

A typical Japanese ivory carving of the "Heavenly Spirit" Karyobinga © Ashley Van Haeften / CC 2.0

Tokyo, Japan, 10th July 2017—Japan’s e-commerce giant, Rakuten, Inc. is banning ivory sales from its online retail site, Rakuten-Ichiba. The new policy prohibiting sales of ivory and products made of Bekko (Hawksbill Turtle shell) was introduced on 1st July.

Shop owners on Rakuten-Ichiba were notified of the new policy on 30th June, and have been given a one-month grace period for the withdrawal of ivory products already on sale.

Rakuten-Ichiba is one of Japan’s major e-commerce platforms for retailing businesses. TRAFFIC’s online surveys have found the majority of ivory retailors on Rakuten-Ichiba sell hanko nameseals. Other ivory products for sale include jewellery, figurines, Buddhist sculptures, Japanese traditional musical instruments, and chopsticks.

TRAFFIC has found that the majority of ivory retailors on Rakuten-Ichiba sell ivory hanko nameseals similar to the one pictured here

Rakuten has previously been criticized by some NGOs for its sales on ivory and whale meat on Rakuten-Ichiba. The company banned sales of the latter in 2014 after an International Court of Justice ruling against Japan’s scientific whaling activities. Rakuten’s latest decision to ban ivory sales stems from a consideration of the ever mounting pressure global ly to close ivory markets to stop the elephant poaching crisis.

“The scale of Japan’s online ivory market is substantial and undermined by serious regulatory challenges”, said Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia.

“Rakuten’s encouraging move should pave the way for more changes in Japan’s e-commerce sector.”

In 2014, TRAFFIC monitoring of ivory trade in Japan’s e-commerce sector found widespread non-compliance among online retailers of relevant domestic legislation, specifically the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (LCES).

Rakuten and Yahoo Japan, another Japanese e-commerce giant, acted on TRAFFIC’s findings by enforcing compliance on their platforms. An as yet unpublished assessment by TRAFFIC in May 2017 revealed substantial improvements on both Rakuten and Yahoo Japan, with a high number of interactions pointing to a very active online domestic ivory market. The assessment also estimates the levels of trade occurring outside the regulatory oversight of the LCES legislation, and finds evidence of ivory products offered which were illegally imported into Japan.

“Although e-commerce companies have made commendable efforts to enforce the current domestic legislation, it has not been sufficient to prevent the illegal ivory flow,” said Tomomi Kitade, TRAFFIC’s Programme Officer in Japan.

“The elephant in the room for Japan’s domestic ivory market are the manifold regulatory loopholes which the government must urgently tackle, while the e-commerce sector should not hold back waiting for this to happen. TRAFFIC and WWF Japan recommend that Japan’s e-commerce sector take stricter measures—like the sales ban boldly implemented by Rakuten.”

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