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2015-07-09

Handling of ivory in Japan: from the import to the sale

Tsuyoshi Tsurumi (Executive Director of Tokyo Ivory Arts and Crafts Association)

Shosoin treasures, almost of which were collected during Nara period (710 to 794 AD), indicate ivory products were already existed in Japan at the time.

The 7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Lausanne, Switzerland, 1989) adopted the proposal to include African Elephant in CITES Appendix I -previously Appendix II - which lead to the ban of ivory trade.   However, several countries in Southern African region were against the decision, and submitted proposals to include African Elephant in CITES Appendix II at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Harare, Zimbabwe, 1997).  As a result, African Elephant was listed CITES Appendix II in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana, and approximately 50 tons of ivory were exported to Japan in spring of 1999.  In the next following year, African elephant in Republic of South Africa, too, was include in CITES Appendix II with some reservation during 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Gigiri, Kenya, 2000).  Japan and China were chosen as partner countries of the monitored trade, and approximately 40 tons of ivory was imported in spring of 2009.

Numbers of ivory products are being kept in storehouses in Kruger National Park in South Africa.  They are derived either from dead elephants (due to natural death or vermin control), seized from poachers, and unknown sources, and sorted and secured strictly.  The illegal and unknown source ivory products are doomed never to be on market.

Trades are under the supervision of the CITES Secretariat.  All imported ivory goods are first to be carefully checked if packages are tightly sealed or contain any errors with CITES Secretariat, then traders finally receive them after the thorough inspections.

Three obligations imposed on wildlife traders in Japan who deal with CITES-listed species are:
1)Submission of the notifications.  Required for international commercial trades.
2)Entry and retain of trade transaction record account book.  Traders must report them annually and keep them for five years.
3)Agreement on On-the-Spot Inspection by Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Economy.

Traders first have to register ivory products to Japan Wildlife Research Center and receive certificates.  Then they are allowed to start trading ivory products.

If cut or modify ivory goods, traders must return the certificates to Japan Wildlife Research Center within 30 days. Then prepare management charts on their own to provide necessary information such as acquisition routes, and attach them to the goods to prove they are legally imported.

Management system of ivory trade is well established in Japan.  Application of business permits, preparation and management of trade transaction records, registration of product materials, preparation of management charts, and applying for certificates to display the products are legally approved, and list goes on.  Japan was accepted in regards of such decent systems on ivory trade.   

Problems for the primary source countries;
1)Lack of Effective measures to prevent (minimize) conflict between humans and elephants.
2)Shortage of human resources.  Too few personnel to cover vast areas.
3)Shortage of fund.  Too little money to hire additional personnel to improve present conditions.  More money is needed to combat poachers and to purchase necessary equipment for conservation and management.

Conservation activities and various sustainable activities of the primary source countries require indigenous resource management systems.   Furthermore, appropriate measures have to be taken for local people to “want” to protect wildlife.

Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) program entrusts local communities with wildlife managements.   The locals have freedom of making their own decisions about the use of wildlife resources and benefit from it.

In Namibia, wildlife has traditionally been managed by land owners from the past.  Likewise, NGOs have introduced talented and skilled personnel to communities for sustainable wildlife managements so that locals can make enough for living.  The revenue goes to the communities, rather than the individuals.  Also importantly, female participation is one of the notable characteristic of the program.

In other countries, there are some examples of elephant conservation with local communities, creating guidelines, and employing local people for the project.

Ownership of wildlife basically belongs to the nation.  However, the department of wildlife allots catch quota to the local communities, and the communities raise money by selling the catch quota to hunting industries.   Such profit reduction system eventually change the way people look at elephant, from vermin to assets.

Transboundary conservation efforts are inevitable because elephants migrate freely regardless of country borders.   It is essential that Organizing wildlife management systems beyond national boundaries, cooperation with large-scaled, internationally organizations to combat illegal hunting and trades,  collaboration and cooperation in working among the law enforcement agencies of the respective countries, which involve primary source countries, transit countries and destination countries. Additionally, local people’s raising Awareness and encouraging people by national governments of combating illegal trades; these are the common recognition in the primary source countries.

Ivory managements cost a lot.  Therefore, the primary source countries argue it is rather beneficial to sell out obtained ivories (from elephants that naturally died or killed as a result of vermin control) and allocate the profits to elephant conservation and management.  Our organization supports this idea.

Primary source countries collect ivories from naturally died elephants and properly manage them, and report the fact to the CITES Secretariat.  When these ivories are legally traded with CITES certified partners, the primary source countries receive the profits and use them for elephant conservation and management.  Wildlife conservation activities could be funded from wildlife resources if such rotation cycle are established and functioned.

Our approaches to conservation since 1985 are very sincere.  For example, we have contributed funds to the ivory-related programs of CITES (including 1997 established MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants)), educated union members, conducted researches in the primary source countries, and attended CITES CoP to gain information and distributed it. 

For over a century, our organization has held annual “zou-kuyou”, memorial services, and never forgets the sense of appreciation for elephants.

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