WASHINGTON, July 22, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Conservationists from leading African organizations are appealing to internet retail giant Rakuten to immediately cease sales of elephant ivory products during the current poaching epidemic. Rakuten is stimulating market demand for elephant ivory by facilitating the sale of tens of thousands of ivory products.
"We appeal to Rakuten to help protect Africa's elephants by banning all ads offering ivory for sale on its Japanese website," said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Kenya's Save the Elephants. "With so many African elephants being killed for their ivory, it is vital to reduce demand for ivory in Japan."
Up to 50,000 African elephants are poached annually to satisfy the demand for ivory from countries like Japan and China. More than 65 percent of Central Africa's forest elephants have been wiped out since 2002. In Tanzania's famous Selous Game Reserve, the elephant population declined 67 percent in just four years.
Ofir Drori, director of the Cameroon-based Last Great Ape Organization, said, "Rakuten must take action to ban ivory ads to help protect the forest elephants which are being slaughtered to provide ivory to Japan and China. Continued ivory ads on Rakuten mean a death sentence for our elephants."
Executive Director of WildlifeDirect Paula Kahumbu said, "Africa's elephants, and thousands of rangers, both men and women, are not safe from poachers as long as Rakuten is inviting people to buy ivory. We beg Rakuten to be responsible and announce a total ban on advertisements selling ivory."
NGOs working internationally and on the ground in Africa have reached out to Rakuten's headquarters and various subsidiaries requesting that Rakuten bans ivory ads on all of its subsidiaries' sites. Rakuten has yet to respond to their appeals.
Allan Thornton, president of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said, "Rakuten must respect appeals from Africa to halt ivory sales to eliminate the supply that's stimulating demand and driving poaching."
Rakuten, "striving to become the world's no. 1 internet services company," states in its Code of Ethics its intention to "staunchly reject any request to engage in illegal or morally questionable activity." By continuing to post ads for ivory, Rakuten is tainting its global reputation.
Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International, said, "The Rakuten Group must enact a company-wide ban on ivory sales - global consumers today want no part in this slaughter. We urge Rakuten affiliates and citizens worldwide to press Rakuten to ban ads offering elephant ivory."
-- Maggie Dewane, Press Officer, EIA, 1-202-483-6621 -- Raul Arce-Contreras, Senior Public Relations Specialist, HSI, 1-301-721-6440
SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency