Japan consumption habits harming 700 rare, endangered species

A Japanese economist tracked import patterns to study their impact on the environment.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Feb. 22, 2017 at 2:50 PM
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Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Japanese consumption habits are detrimental to more than 790 endangered and rare species of plants and animals, according to a university economist.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reported on Tuesday that 792 threatened life forms around the world are being harmed because of demand in the world's third-largest economy.

Japanese imports have resulted in the destruction of wildlife habitats for a wide range of species, including the Iberian lynx, elephants, leopards, the Malayan sun bear, shrimp species, sea turtles and sharks, according to the report.

Keiichiro Kanemoto, an economist at Shinshu University in Japan, said his analysis indicates the imports to Japan have had a profoundly negative impact on hundreds of species.

In his study, Kanemoto tracked the patterns of certain kinds of Japanese consumer spending and the import routes to see whether they had any repercussions on the 7,000 species of plants and animals that have been designated as rare or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Results of his study show Japanese consumption habits had the heaviest impact on the flora and fauna of Southeast Asia and Oceania.

In Southeast Asia, the habitat of the Malayan sun bear has been devastated due to deforestation, caused by demand for raw material imports.

The possibility of the bear species' extinction has increased dramatically, according to Kanemoto's findings.

In Papua New Guinea, populations of crustaceans, sharks and sea turtles are declining because they are being converted into raw materials for export.

Leopards and bush elephants in Ethiopia are also being threatened because of land that is being cleared for coffee and sesame seed cultivation.

The analyst recommended Japanese consumers reduce "unnecessary consumption."

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