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Wildlife Trade Specialists

The ivory nameseals seized in Tokyo Port © Tokyo Metropolitan Police

The ivory nameseals seized in Tokyo Port © Tokyo Metropolitan Police

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Published 7th February 2018

Japanese ivory trader arrested on suspicion of smuggling ivory to China

Tokyo, Japan—Police in Japan last week arrested the director of a government-accredited ivory retail outlet on suspicion of attempting to smuggle ivory to China in contravention of national and international regulations.


According to media reports, the 47 year-old suspect was detained following the arrest of a Chinese sailor attempting to board a vessel in Tokyo Port who was found to be in possession of 605 ivory nameseal pieces. 

Further investigation led police to raid the ivory retail premises where documents and other materials were confiscated and the arrest of the ivory retailer who, it is alleged, had sent the ivory pieces via a second Chinese national to the sailor. Investigators believe the three suspects were involved in premeditated ivory smuggling. 

The company at the centre of the allegations is understood to be a member of Japan’s ivory industry association. 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department are to be congratulated on this important case, and although it is still under active investigation, the information released to date clearly undermines the government’s claim the Japanese domestic market is strictly controlled.

Tomomi Kitade, Head of TRAFFIC’s Japan Office“It is essential that follow up investigations are carried out to evaluate the extent of the alleged smuggling operations and for the case to reach a successful judicial conclusion.” 

Under current Japanese legislation domestic trade in ivory is still allowed. However, international export is not permitted under the Customs Act and because it is contravention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 

“Japan’s failure to regulate its domestic ivory market is not consistent with the international efforts currently underway to protect the world’s elephants from poaching,” said Gavin Edwards, WWF Coordinator, Initiative on Closing Ivory Markets in Asia. 

“To protect the nation’s international image and prevent further ivory leakage into illegal trade, Japan should close its domestic ivory markets as a matter of priority.” 

Ivory Towers, a TRAFFIC study released in December 2017 warned of the weaknesses in government oversight of the domestic ivory markets in Japan and the possibility they would result in illegal cross-border trade. 

“It appears the concerns set out in Ivory Towers have not been heeded and elephants will end up paying the price,” said Kitade.