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Yahoo!’s Promotion of Ivory Sales

Despite the international drive to protect elephants from illegal poaching, more than 35,000 elephants continue to be killed every year for their tusks. Because elephants are the largest land mammal on the planet and have a heightened emotional intelligence, the possibility of a world without them should be avoided at all costs.

However, there are countries and businesses that are taking the conservation of this endangered species less seriously. In Japan, ivory sales are strong, and this demand has fueled the continued poaching. In an attempt to make a profit, Yahoo! Japan – a joint venture between the U.S.-based Yahoo! and the Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank – has actively facilitated the sale of ivory on its online auction site. If we want to help protect the few remaining elephants, we need to take action.

Japanese Demand for Ivory

Much of the demand for elephant ivory comes from Japan. 80% of the ivory sold in Japan is used for hanko, an ornate seal used much like a rubber stamp is used in the United States. While the sale of ivory in Japan declined soon after the ban on illegal ivory in 1989, a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that, between 2005 and 2014, ivory sales on Yahoo! Japan alone sky-rocketed from $584,294 to $6.8 million USD.

Sham Regulations Create Heightened Ivory Traffic

The EIA report found that the explosion in ivory sales is substantially due to the relaxed enforcement of Japan’s environmental laws, which are actually supposed to prevent the sale of illegally obtained ivory by requiring tusks to be registered before being sold. The only ivory tusks that can currently be registered are those obtained before 1989, when the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was implemented. To prove that ivory was obtained before 1989, however, Japanese regulations only require a statement by the vendor. Even worse, this statement does not even have to be made under the penalty of perjury. Even if officials become suspicious and require a corroborating statement, this statement can be made by a member of the vendor’s family.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the EIA’s report found ivory vendors very willing to lie on their registration documents to make ivory – especially illegally obtained ivory – legal in Japan so they can sell it. The only question has been where they could find buyers.

Enter: Yahoo! Japan

One thing that every ivory seller needs is a marketplace. Citing environmental concerns, both Amazon and Google have refused to list ivory products on their sites, leaving vendors with few options. What Google and Amazon refused, however, Yahoo! Japan welcomed. Between 2012 and 2014, more than 12 metric tons of ivory was sold on Yahoo! Japan, with several thousand pieces of ivory available for sale at any one time.

U.S.-Based Yahoo! Profit

While Yahoo! Japan is not a part of the U.S.-based Yahoo! organization, Yahoo! is its second largest shareholder, owning 35.5% of Yahoo! Japan’s stock. This gives Yahoo! a significant say in Yahoo! Japan’s policy, and a vested interest in its profits. With the U.S.-based Yahoo! floundering, it has come to rely on income wherever it can find it.

Even if it’s at the cost of an endangered species.

What You Can Do To Help

You can start by signing Avaaz’s petition, calling on Yahoo! and Yahoo! Japan to stop hosting ivory sales on their sites.

However, multinational corporations tend to only pay attention to public outcry if it impacts their bottom line.

Here’s how to affect Yahoo!’s bottom line.

Yahoo! makes a significant amount of its income by selling advertisements in its search engine results pages and on its sites. If you use Yahoo! Search, clicking on these ads earns Yahoo! a fee from the company posting the advertisement. Additionally, the fees that Yahoo! charges advertisers for its ad space is based on how many users Yahoo! claims to have. Consider closing old Yahoo! accounts: the company counts all open accounts within its users, allowing it to boost it advertising fees.

Conscientious travelers have the power to pressure Yahoo! into doing the right thing and taking a huge step in keeping elephants from going extinct.

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