African Tourism Board applauds Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone alarm raised in Tokyo

African nations step up pressure on Tokyo Government to close ivory market ahead of March 29 government meeting.

Letters from four African nations have been sent to the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, pleading to protect elephants from the ivory trade.

The continuing existence of Japan’s large open ivory market has an impact on the poaching crisis, both directly and indirectly.

Although Japan agreed to close is ivory market in 2016, there is documented evidence of illegal trade and systematic flaws in Japan’s ivory trade controls.

Four African nations are urging the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to close its ivory market in advance of a task force meeting to examine the issue.

In letters addressed to Yuriko Koike, the Governor of Tokyo, representatives from the governments of Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leone write:  “From our perspective, to protect our elephants from the trade in ivory it is vitally important that Tokyo’s ivory market be closed, leaving only limited exceptions.

“While the trade level in Japan has dropped since its peak in the 1980s, the continuing existence of Japan’s large open market has an impact on the poaching crisis, both directly and indirectly, serving to stimulate continuous demand for ivory when other markets are closing to protect elephants.”

The African Tourism Board (ATB) strongly supports the effort of this initiative by Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leon, said Cuthbert Ncube, Chairman of ATB, currently on an official visit in the Ivory Coast.

In 2016, Japan agreed to close its ivory markets at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But the letters note that “although there is documented evidence of illegal trade and systematic flaws in Japan’s ivory trade controls, the Government of Japan has not acted to implement its commitment and close the ivory market, prompting us to appeal directly to Tokyo for action.”

The four countries are members of the African Elephant Coalition, a group of 32 African nations dedicated to protecting Africa’s elephants including from the trade in ivory. The coalition’s Council of Elders sent similar correspondence to the Tokyo governor in June 2020, challenging her with “setting an international inspirational example, and leading Japan on a progressive conservation path.”

The next meeting of the Tokyo government’s Advisory Committee on Ivory Trade Regulation , charged with assessing the city’s ivory trade and regulations, will convene on March 29. The meeting is open to the public and will be livestreamed here from 2:00 to 4:00 PM Tokyo time (07:00-09:00 UTC). A report from the Advisory Committee is expected within a few months.

The coalition’s actions are part of an ongoing international effort to persuade Governor Koike and the committee to close Tokyo’s ivory market and includes letters from:

– 26 international non-government environmental and conservation organizations (February 18, 2021) (English) (Japanese)

– Association of Zoos & Aquariums (July 31, 2020)

– Save the Elephants (July 8, 2020)

– New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (May 8, 2019).

“Ivory trade should be banned immediately in Tokyo – Japan’s center for ivory sales and illegal export – without waiting for national-level responses,” says Masayuki Sakamoto, executive director of the Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund. “Japan has been lagging behind other countries in closing its ivory markets, so the actions taken by the committee will be under immense scrutiny by international communities.”

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