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Internet Company Wanted for Selling Ivory Products

Jul 23, 2014 01:10 PM EDT

A Japanese-based Internet company is wanted by several international organizations for selling ivory products, seemingly backing the illegal poaching of African elephants, according to reports.

Rakuten, the sixth largest e-commerce company in the world, offers ivory products on its website, fueling the demand for elephant poaching. While conservationists usually target the United States and China, ivory hotspots, they are now focusing on Rakuten and asking them to ban all such items.

"We appeal to Rakuten to help protect Africa's elephants by banning all ads offering ivory for sale on its Japanese website," Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Kenya's Save the Elephants, said in a news release.

"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. Since 2002, more than 65 percent of Central Africa's elephants have been wiped out. And in Tanzania's famous Selous Game Reserve, the elephant population dropped 67 percent in just four years, according to the release.

Along with Save the Elephants, other groups like the Cameroon-based Last Great Ape Organization, WildlifeDirect, Humane Society International and the Environmental Investigation Agency are joining in the effort to ban these sales, which are a "death sentence for out elephants," they say.

Rakuten's Code of Ethics even states the company's goal to "staunchly reject any request to engage in illegal or morally questionable activity" - a tenet that is clearly hypocritical in light of the situation.

Just last month elephant lovers everywhere were in an uproar when Kenya's beloved elephant Satao was killed by poachers solely for the price of his ivory.

In other more welcoming news, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the nation of Thailand has until March 2015 to take action to shut down its illegal ivory trade - something they pledged to do in 2013. Under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), failure to do so will result in sanctions that will cost their economy an estimated $80.7 million.

"Elephants across Africa and Asia are being slaughtered for ivory and illegal markets in countries like Thailand are allowing wildlife crime to flourish," the WWF wrote.

The African elephant is the largest animal walking the Earth. It is considered a vulnerable species due to poaching as well as habitat loss.

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