The Fish and Wildlife Service issued Feb. 26 an order instructing agency staff to more strictly enforce existing restrictions on the commercial trade in elephant ivory. The FWS states that this order is the first in a series of administrative actions it will take to stop the prolific illegal trade in ivory, rhino horn and other animal parts, as called for in the National Strategy on Combating Wildlife Trafficking signed by President Obama on Feb . 11.
Under this order, effective Feb. 26, African elephant ivory, including antiques, may no longer be imported into the U.S. for any commercial purpose. The only African elephant ivory that may now be brought into the country with proper documentation is ivory that is part of a lawfully taken sport hunted trophy; imported by a federal, state or tribal government agency for law enforcement purposes; imported for scientific purposes that contribute to elephant conservation; worked ivory contained in personal items as part of a household move or inheritance that meets specific criteria; worked ivory that is part of a musical instrument that meets specific criteria; or worked ivory imported as part of a traveling exhibition that meets specific criteria.
Anyone using the antique exception under the Endangered Species Act to import, export or sell across state boundaries any item made from or containing part of an endangered or threatened species will need to show documentation that the item is at least 100 years old, was legally imported at a designated Customs antique port, and has not been subject to certain types of repairs or modifications. Additionally, the particular species has to be identified on the documentation. The FWS states that rigorous enforcement of these antique criteria will affect the importation and interstate sale of Asian elephant ivory as antiques, the export of both African and Asian elephant ivory under the ESA’s antiques exemption, and the international trade and interstate sale of items made from any foreign species listed as endangered or threatened. Interstate sale of African elephant ivory will remain legal at this time, but the FWS is pursuing the regulatory changes needed to address such commerce.