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SoftBank won’t end Yahoo! Japan ivory & whale sales

Campaigners call on Softbank CEO to help end slaughter of elephants and whales


LONDON UK / WASHINGTON DC: Wildlife advocates expressed bitter disappointment today at the refusal of international conglomerate SoftBank Corp to ban advertisements for elephant ivory and whale & dolphin products on Yahoo! Japan, the dominant company in SoftBank’s internet division with revenues of nearly US$4 billion in 2012.

The announcement follows a letter sent in June by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Humane Society International (HSI) to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, appealing to him to direct Yahoo! Japan to join all other Yahoo! websites worldwide in banning the sale of these products.

EIA and HSI have yet to receive a response from the Japanese telecommunications and internet corporation giant, which recently concluded a US$21.6 billion takeover of US cell phone carrier Sprint.

“SoftBank has a responsibility to millions of US Sprint customers who will be shocked to discover that SoftBank is profiting from the slaughter of elephants, whales and dolphins,” said Clare Perry, head of EIA’s Cetaceans Campaign. “SoftBank must direct Yahoo! Japan to prohibit all such ads immediately to help protect Africa’s elephants and the world’s threatened whale and dolphin populations.”

Kitty Block, Vice President of Humane Society International, added: “Tens of thousands of elephants, whales and dolphins are being killed each year to supply demand for their parts. We urge SoftBank to end their role in this cruel and unnecessary slaughter.”

Today, Yahoo! Japan lists almost 8,000 ads for elephant ivory, which have tripled in number since March after and Google enforced a ban and removed all ads for elephant ivory and whale products from their Japanese shopping sites.

About 80 per cent of the Yahoo! Japan ivory ads are for hanko (name seals used to sign official documents), many of which are thought to derive from illicit ivory tusks smuggled into Japan from Africa.

Yahoo! Japan also sells hundreds of whale products, including internationally protected species such as fin whales illegally killed in Iceland, minke whales killed in the Antarctic whale sanctuary as well as Bryde’s, sei and sperm whales killed in the Northwest Pacific. Other ads feature products from whales brutally killed in the town of Taiji in southern Japan, made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.

“We are mindful of SoftBank’s current efforts to expand its reach internationally. As you expand, however, so too does your international constituency and your need to address broader social responsibility,” stated the joint letter. “We hope that SoftBank Corp’s direct contact with Yahoo! Japan will yield positive results when all the facts concerning endangered elephants and threatened whales and dolphins are presented and considered.”


Interviews and images are available on request: please contact Clare Perry, at [email protected] or telephone +44 (0) 20 7354 7960.



1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.

2. It is estimated that 30,000 elephants were killed throughout Africa last year.

3. About 456,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales have been killed around the coast of Japan during the past 25 years. The hunted populations include rare, endangered and declining species and populations. Many dolphins have high levels of mercury contamination, which dramatically exceed Government of Japan limits for seafood for human consumption.


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960