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 Amazon.com and Google enforced a ban and removed all ads for elephant ivory and whale products from their Japanese shopping sites.

African Elephant (PD)

African Elephant (PD)

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.”

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