AZA News Releases

Letter to the Governor of Tokyo Regarding the Illegal Ivory Trade

View a PDF of the letter here.

July 31, 2020

The Honorable Yuriko Koike
Governor of Tokyo
Secretarial Section, General Affairs Division, Office of the Governor for Policy Planning
Tokyo Metropolitan Government
8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku 2-chome
Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo 163-8001

Dear Governor Koike:

I’m writing to express my appreciation that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government considers the illegal trade of ivory to be a serious problem that requires attention.  Tokyo is one of the most influential cities in the world, and the steps your government is taking to examine the ivory trade and consider measures to address the are of great importance.  Like many countries, Japan is a significant market for the illegal ivory trade, stemming from under regulation and exports to neighboring countries, particularly China.

And the United States was no different.  I served as Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from 2011 to 2017.  During my tenure, my agency took significant steps to close the U.S. domestic ivory market—which, according to some reports, was the second largest in the world at the time.  In 2016, following the historic 2015 U.S.-China ivory trade agreement, the U.S. implemented a near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory.  And China quickly followed suit.  Since then, many countries have followed the U.S. and Chinese examples and implemented similar ivory bans.  Despite decades of enormous enforcement efforts to protect elephants, the single greatest action to address the elephant poaching threat was China closing its domestic ivory market.

As President and CEO of The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), I’m pleased to report that our organization has increased its commitment to fighting the extinction of animals and combating the threats they face in the wild, including wildlife trafficking.  Through its Saving Animals From Extinction and Wildlife Trafficking Alliance programs, our members play a critical role in reducing illegal, unsustainable, and unethical wildlife trade.  Wildlife trafficking is an international crisis that demands immediate attention—from governments, conservations organizations, law enforcement, and the public.

If there ever was a moment when we could focus the world’s attention on a significant issue like wildlife trafficking, now is the time.  The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the issue of wildlife trade into the public sphere and has shined a light on our unnatural and unsustainable relationship with wildlife and nature, and the nexus between human and animal health.  I’m hopeful that this public health crisis, and the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, provides an opportunity to increase the focus of government efforts to address the ivory trade problem through the Tokyo Advisory Committee.  Let’s not lose momentum!  Some steps should be taken now.   

I urge you to close Tokyo’s ivory market as soon as possible.  And I urge you to appeal to the Government of Japan to close the national ivory market.  Tokyo should join the growing list of governments that have already closed their markets and committed to combating the illegal trade of elephant ivory.  Thank you for your consideration and attention to this important issue.  If AZA can be of any assistance to your government on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Dan Ashe
President and CEO

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