The Cable

Japanese Retail Giant to Stop Selling Ivory

But without a significant turnaround, elephants could be on their way to extinction.

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Another blow was struck to the illicit ivory trade this week, but it may still not be enough to reverse the decline in the elephant population.

On Thursday, the Environmental Investigation Agency, an international environmental advocacy group, praised Japanese internet retail giant Rakuten Ichiba for its recent decision to stop selling elephant ivory. Earlier this month, the company announced it would no longer ship products that contain whale, dolphin, ivory or sea turtle components.

Rakuten Ichiba is the latest to heed widespread calls to end the ivory trade, which is largely funded by illegal poaching operations. The United States is close to ending its domestic ivory trade, and China and other countries have committed to closing down their domestic ivory markets. Google, Amazon.com, Alibaba and eBay have also banned ivory sales on all their sites.

The Japanese retailer’s decision comes as the outlook for elephants continues to worsen. According to census data, there is a 30 percent decline from 2007 to 2014 in savannah elephant populations across 18 African nations. Forest elephant populations declined by 65 percent between 2002 and 2013. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, this rate of decline in the elephant popular is unsustainable and could lead to the their extinction.

Photo credit: ISSOUF SANOGO/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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