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Environmental Group Says Japan Helping Ivory Trade

The Images of elephant's tusks are seen on a screen as WWF Japan held a press conference at Foreign Press Center in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
The Images of elephant's tusks are seen on a screen as WWF Japan held a press conference at Foreign Press Center in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Environmental Group Says Japan Helping Ivory Trade
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An environmental group has criticized Japan's controls over its ivory supply.

A report released with the support of the World Wildlife Fund this month said ivory exports are hurting efforts to end trafficking in elephant tusks.

The report's researchers found that antique dealers are buying a large number of elephant tusks in Japan. These tusks, however, are not legally registered.

The report said that sellers advertised whole tusks without proof of where they came from. It said internet sites sell hundreds of ivory objects each year. Often the sales are to visitors from other Asian countries such as China.

The report used information from TRAFFIC, a network that studies the wildlife trade. TRAFFIC found that sellers used a major website to sell about 2,447 ivory items in a four-week period from May to June of 2017. The ivory items were valued at more than $400,000.

The report's authors urged that the government should bring attention to rules for ivory dealings. They also urged the government to tighten controls at customs to keep people from taking items such as ivory seals and figurines out of the country.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, bans international trade in ivory. The ban is meant to protect endangered African elephants.

CITES also has called for closing ivory markets in all member states.

Many countries have agreed to close their ivory markets.

China announced last year that it would shut down its ivory trade by the end of 2017. Hong Kong, the world's largest retail ivory market, plans to end local trading by 2021.

But Japan has resisted closing its markets. It argues that ivory products traded inside the country are not received through illegal hunting or trading.

Instead, the government approved a proposal to tighten registration requirements for more than 8,000 ivory sellers and manufacturers.

Critics say the registration system amounts to a form of ivory laundering. Laundering refers to the act of making money or goods legal after they have been acquired illegally.

The large internet company Rakuten said it would ban sales of ivory objects in its online marketplace. It also banned sales of products using parts of sea turtles.

I'm John Russell.

Elaine Kurtenbach reported on this story for the associated Press. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

trafficking – n. the act or business of illegally buying something and selling it especially in another country

tusk – n. a very long, large tooth that sticks out of the mouth of an animal (such as an elephant, walrus, or boar)

antique –adj. describing furniture, jewelry or some other object made during an earlier time and that is thought to be valuable

e-commerce – n. activities that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet

seal – n. a device with a raised design that can be pressed into something (such as paper or wax) to make a seal

figurine – n. a small figure or model of a person made of wood, plastic, etc.

retail – adj. relating to the business of selling things directly to customers for their own use

laundering – n. to put (money that you got by doing something illegal) into a business or bank account in order to hide where it really came from