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Conservation group claims Google’s shopping ads are fuelling ivory demand in Asia

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By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

March 5, 2013 | 2 min read

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has claimed that Google shopping ads are partly behind the recent surge in ivory demand in Asia.

The EIA have said that as the killing of African elephants hits record levels, there are some 10,000 ads on Google Japan’s shopping sites promoting the sale of ivory.

The ads are predominantly for “hanko”, small wooden stamps with ivory lettering, widely used in Japan to affix signature seals to official documents. Around 20 per cent of the ads are for carvings and other small objects.

The EIA said Japan's hanko sales, which are legal, are a "major demand driver for elephant ivory (and) have contributed to the wide-scale resumption of elephant poaching across Africa." The organisation brought it to the attention of Google boss, Larry Page, via a letter on 22 February.

The claims go against Google's own advertising policies, which state it “does not allow the promotion of products obtained from endangered or threatened species"

However the EIA said Google had not responded to the letter or taken down the advertisements.

Allan Thorton, the US-based president of the EIA said: "While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants.”

He added that Google’s policies were laudable "but sadly these are not being enforced and that's devastating."

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