Yahoo Japan Allowed Sale Of 12 Tonnes Of Ivory Over Two Years

942 Yahoo Japan Allowed Sale Of 12 Tonnes Of Ivory Over Two Years
Much of the ivory is crafted into name seals known as "hanko." Vikalpa/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

The website Yahoo Japan has come under heavy fire for allowing the sale of an estimated 12 tonnes (13.2 tons) of ivory products over a two-year period. It is thought that thousands of items made out of elephants' tusks have been traded on the company’s auction site, spurring the activist organization Avaaz to launch an online petition calling on the CEO of Yahoo Japan to follow other Internet giants such as Amazon and Google to ban all sales of ivory. So far, the petition has received over 1 million signatures.

It’s estimated that the ivory sold on the site between 2012 and 2014 accounted for $7 million (£4.9 million) of sales, of which Yahoo Japan would have taken a percentage of as transaction and listing fees. Uncovered by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the majority of the products on sale are name seals, known as “hanko,” which are used to sign official documents instead of writing a name. The EIA also claimed that Japanese traders were involved with illegal tusk registration, providing a route through which recently acquired illegal ivory can enter the legal market.


Considering the ivory was sold over just two years, the total volume of trade that goes through the website could be substantial. It is estimated that 100 elephants are killed every day, with Avaaz directly implicating Yahoo Japan in the slaughter that is going on in Africa. The petition reads: “The ivory trade is pushing elephants to the edge of extinction, and Yahoo is making a killing from trinket sales in Japan! But right now we have a chance to end this corporate complicity.”

Under current international laws, any ivory that was procured before the protection of elephants came into force in 1989 is technically legal to trade. Yahoo Japan claims that all the products sold on their website come from this source, and that if anyone is discovered to be selling illegal ivory, the sales are cancelled. But the EIA report found that the fraudulent registration of tusks in Japan is commonplace, with the Japanese government's checks so lax that the laundering of illegal ivory into the market is easy and straightforward.

The Japanese site is separate from Yahoo Inc., although the latter is a major investor. Despite this, Yahoo has been quick to distance itself from the Japanese company that shares its name. In a statement to Gizmodo, they said: “At Yahoo, Inc., we understand the concerns raised by this campaign, and we in no way condone the sale of products made with ivory obtained from any animal at risk of extinction. Yahoo, Inc. is an investor in Yahoo Japan and does not have controlling ownership. As such, Yahoo Japan determines their own policies and we refer you to the Yahoo Japan team for comment regarding their policies.”

With mounting pressure from both a political and consumer level, how long such large corporations can go on being complicit and profiting from the sale of wild animal products is unclear. 


Main image credit: Vikalpa/Flickr CC BY 2.0


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