The new USF&WS regulation changing the definition of trophies of CITES listed species has caused the seizure of rhino parts from RSA and elephant tusks from Zimbabwe. These are the first seizures enforcing the new USF&WS regulations adopted August 23, 2007. Those regulations state that the term “sport-hunted trophy” definition will no longer “include handicraft items or items manufactured from the trophy used as clothing, curios, ornamentation, jewelry, or other utilitarian items.” Appendix II and III items of that nature must be coded as “personal items” (P) instead of as trophies (H). It is not clear to us if importation of such items of Appendix I species are importable at all, even if they are coded on the export permit as “personal items” (P) instead of as trophies. Of course, only trophies are generally allowed to be traded when species are listed on Appendix I; other trade is treated as prohibited commercial.
The first items seized under the new regulations were white rhino feet and a tail that had been made into buckets and a swish, respectively. The irony of the seizure is that white rhino are on Appendix II, not Appendix I. Apparently, the USF&WS position is that the sport hunter had to have an Appendix I import permit to import those items because the white rhino was down listed to Appendix II only for importation of trophies – for all other purposes it remains on Appendix I. Since the USF&WS does not recognize the utilitarian items as trophies, they require an Appendix I import permit; therefore, they were imported in violation of law without an import permit. It remains to be seen if the USF&WS would have granted an import permit had one been timely applied for.
The second seizure is of two elephant tusks that have the Big Five scrimshawed on them. They were taken by a sport hunter and are clearly marked and fully identified. The tusks are whole trophies from Zimbabwe and are on Appendix II of CITES. Of course, importation of African elephant ivory is prohibited in the United States by the African Elephant Conservation Act with the exception of sport-hunting trophies – but apparently the tusks are no longer considered trophies because of the scrimshawing.
It seems clear that these parts (trophies) were intended to be importable under the CITES proposals that downlisted the rhino and Zimbabwe elephant – where they were downlisted before the new USF&WS definition change of the term “trophy.” It is also the trade the African Elephant Conservation Act found to benefit the elephant and Congress intended to exempt from import restriction. We know that the animal rights groups suggested the change in the definition of “trophy” to the USF&WS, but subsequently the USF&WS justified the change to facilitate the law enforcement need to exclude commercial items being imported under the guise of being trophies. In the two instances here, there is no question that the utilitarian items were sport-hunted.
We must advise against conversion of raw parts into any sort of utilitarian items until you get your trophy home. If you have already had the trophy converted to a utilitarian item, the best advice is to apply for an Appendix I import permit before the importation. We will keep readers advised as these two seizures progress.