Major Japanese online retailer, Rakuten, ends elephant ivory sales

Humane Society International

Humane Society International is hailing an announcement by a major Japanese online retailer that it will ban all sales of elephant ivory. The move by Rakuten follows calls by animal protection and conservation groups including the Environmental Investigation Agency and HSI to take action to protect elephants from poaching.

Poachers kill as many as 50,000 African elephants every year to supply the illegal ivory trade, and online sales of ivory is a major concern contributing to those killings. This decision by Rakuten will be a major boost to international efforts to end the ‘blood ivory’ problem.

Iris Ho, wildlife program manager for HSI said: “Rakuten’s decision to ban elephant ivory items sets a prime example that an environmentally and ethically responsible business does not support a trade that decimates one of the earth’s most beloved creatures. We urge other e-retailers such as Yahoo! Japan to follow Rakuten’s step and call on the Japanese government to shut down its domestic ivory market. We hope that Rakuten’s conservation decision brings about the beginning of the end of Japan’s ivory market.”

At last year’s meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, member states  passed a resolution calling on CITES nations to close their domestic ivory markets. Despite being a party to CITES, Japan’s response was to claim that their domestic market for ivory does not contribute to poaching of elephants or illegal trade and thus is not subject to closure. Japan’s domestic ivory market remains open, and is now the largest remaining in the world. 

In 2014, the EIA in conjunction with HSI released a report called “Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten’s profits from the slaughter of elephants and whales” revealing that Rakuten Ichiba’s website was carrying more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products. EIA and HSI research identified more than 90 percent of the ivory products sold on Rakuten Japan as “hanko” – name seals used in Japan to sign official documents. Large amounts of ivory hanko are known to have been produced from illegal ivory in Japan.

The company owns Rakuten Shopping in the U.S., in the U.K., Canadian e-book reader Kobu and popular chat app Viber, as well as being a major shareholder in Pinterest.

Media contacts: Raúl Arce-Contreras,, +1-301-721-6440

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