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2015-07-09

Wildlife trade - World and Japan trends

Tomomi Matsumoto (Programme Officer of TRAFFIC EAST ASIA - JAPAN)

Japan is one of the world's biggest importing countries of wildlife, ranking third place in animals, plants, and amphibians, and the fourth in birds and reptiles.  As of plants, it marks third-place rank in Orchidaceae, the most actively traded ones among CITE-species, and also Cacti being at the same level.

Among all imported CITES-species and its products to Japan, plants occupy about 30%, devoting the rest for animals, reptiles being the largest and taking up more than half.  According to 2012 annual report, the number of import counted more than 47,000.

64% of imported animals are leather products, most are crocodile and alligator skins which derived from both wild species and captive-bred. Almost all plants are live, captive-bred. Much of imported plants are ornamental orchid species.  For plants, almost all the imported ones are live, captive bred orchid species for decoration purpose.

Several pet shops in Japan trade rare reptiles, attracting customers with world's rare species.  Some are priced few million yen an individual!

A product fetches higher price as it gets rarer.  As a consequence, illigal trade always exists even though productive countries ban capture as well as CITES bans international trade.

Various plants and animal species are used in Japan, medicines (oriental medicines) and cosmetics for example.  In addition, many are used traditional crafts products, which are playing significant roles in traditional indigenous culture.  For at least this moment of time, humans depend heavily on natural resources for so many goods and services.

International wildlife trade, whether it's legal or not, has changed its form at global level to meet different needs, and expanding as ever.  Globalization, availability of IT, and social instability are the major reasons, but impact of economic growth of emerging country is also a great contributing factor.

The reported rhinos poaching cases in the Republic of South Africa were only 13 in 2007, the number skyrocketed to 1,215 in 2014.  Rhino horns had been traditionally used in Asian medicines, and Japan, too, used to export a lot of them for ingredients of popular medicines.  After Japan stopped importing the horns in 1980, and Honk Kong, Korea and China stopped consuming them in some times in 90's, the numbers of rhinos poaching dropped.  However, the poaching has been on a verge of revival as the recent demand increase from Vietnam.  There, people want rhino horns as panaceas, and some wealthy elites buy them as a means of showing off their status and power.

Approximately 25,000 elephants were poached in Africa in 2011 alone.

CITES has monitored poaching and illegal trade over African elephants and ivories. The report shows the poaching numbers have been increasing drastically since 2009.  Since 2010, the number became beyond the carrying capacity (natural reproductive capacity), concerning some regional extinction may occur.

Similarly, the volume of confiscated goods from illegal trade have been increasing drastically since 2009, and in 2011 it reached the level of approximately three times more than that of 2009's.  The major markets in modern day are in China and Thailand.  Escalation in the scale of confiscations suggests some kind of crime syndicates, which have sufficient funds and network to fuel and support their activities, are involved with the trade.

In early 1980's, ivories were most actively traded in Japan, ivories corresponding approximately 500,000 elephants entered the country.  However, Japan established the domestic trade control system in response to international trade ban of African elephant in 1989, and succeeded to change the overstocked market into healthy, sustainable one.

London Declaration was signed at London Conference, held in February of 2014, focusing on ensuring effective Legal system and deterrent to eliminate illegally traded products, strengthening of law enforcement, and securing the sustainability and economic growth of local communities.  In such global determination toward wildlife crime, Japanese contribution is being questioned and a point of attention.

Problems Japan has to tackle are to prevent rare species getting out of country and to eradicate online wildlife trade.

There is no doubt Japanese trade control systems are behind from those of other advanced countries' and need some improvement.  I, personnel to have worked in such environment, suggest introduction of more rigid measures such as monitoring are indispensable to conventional Japanese systems to reduce illegal trade.

TRAFFIC poll finding revealed recognition and concern toward rare species or species extinction are low among younger generations.  This is another momentous issue in terms of wildlife conservation.

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« Smuggling of endangered species, and voices from ex situ conservation facilities - in the case of conservation of slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) | トップページ | The public comments for revision of the Japanese Act on Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora »

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« Smuggling of endangered species, and voices from ex situ conservation facilities - in the case of conservation of slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) | トップページ | The public comments for revision of the Japanese Act on Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora »