Elephant Tusk Seizures: There have been a number of seizures of elephant tusks for various reasons and litigation is building across the country. Tusks from Zimbabwe have been seized in Atlanta and New York because they were scrimshawed with the Big Five on one side. The legal identification markings were not affected by the surface-deep etching and the dimensions (length, width, shape) and weight remained the same. The required seizure notice from the USF&WS stated that the tusks were not “Trophies” under the new US CITES regulations adopted in August/September 2007 which, according to the USF&WS, meant they were to be treated as parts of an elephant still on Appendix I - therefore an import permit was necessary, but read on.
To our surprise, in two Federal Court cases, one in New York and one in Atlanta, the Justice Department trial attorneys that represent the United States in court claim that the scrimshawing is “worked ivory” under the 1989 African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA). This means you can’t get an import permit for scrimshawed tusks if you apply for one and even if it were downlisted altogether. The AECA is an embargo against all ivory but trophies. If the ivory is not a trophy, the AECA is an absolute total ban on its import and no permit is available.
Of course, we are challenging this new AECA interpretation to the fullest. We are in the midst of filing motions to dismiss these forfeiture cases. CITES has a specific Resolution that tusks are not to be treated as “worked” ivory when they remain whole, the etching is minimal and less than “minimal sculpturing” as it is not sculpturing at all since it is no more than skin deep and is not three-dimensional. Minimal sculpting is exempt by the AECA and tusks that remain “whole” are exempt by CITES.
The AECA totally exempts sport-hunted trophies and that exemption was based upon the benefits of the sport-hunting and the nature of the activity more than the attributes or use of the tusks. The FWS has never before been known to seize sport-hunted tusks because they were embellished to better memorialize the hunt. This comes from left field, had never before been suggested, and will have to be litigated in full.
The two hunters took their elephant and the scrimshawing was completed before the 2007 regulations came into effect, but the FWS wants to apply it retroactively as an ex post facto regulation against the hunters to push the envelope of forfeitures. We will post Conservation Force’s complex briefs in support of our motions to dismiss the seizure and forfeiture cases. See www.conservationforce.org under News and Alerts.
The cases may or may not effect the new narrower definitions of trophies under the US regulations first suggested by the anti-hunting, anti-sustainable use groups. We are putting it all into issue. For the time being, the International Affairs position is that any scrimshawing of elephant ivory (and most certainly any sculpturing) converts the sport-hunted trophy into a prohibited item that can’t be imported and also can’t be permitted for importation. It is now a banned item under the AECA even though the AECA was not referred to in the adoption of the new 2007 regulations.
There is more to this legal quagmire that we are endeavoring to work our way through. In the meantime, don’t import scrimshawed trophy tusks because the tusks will be seized for forfeiture as contraband illegal to possess.
As this issue of Conservation Force Bulletin goes to press, elephant tusks have again been seized because they were screwed to stand up in a supporting base. The inspector, this time in Miami, seized the Botswana tusks for being “worked.” The screw attaching the base is the alleged work or craftsmanship.
This seizure is counter to a letter of clarification we have from the Division of Management Authority last year when tusks in stands were detained but then released in Houston. We should be able to get these released without Federal District Court litigation this time, but the saga of the regulations that were opposed so vigorously continues.
Worse, the Miami inspector seized an Appendix II lechwe skin because it was made into a rug for display or floor covering. Contradictorily, USF&WS has a published handout (nothing more formal) that skins made into rugs remain trophies and should be purpose coded as trophies. Everyone is confused, including Law Enforcement. For the time being it may be advisable to get your taxidermy work done in the US, not before, if it is a listed species.
Ox of Okavango Conservation Award: The Professional Hunters Association of Africa has recognized Eric Pasanisi for his uncommon leadership in conservation of the African lion. They awarded him the prestigious Ox of Okavango Conservation Award and $5,000. The funds are contributed by Triangle Bar Farms Corp./Fred P. Mannix. Eric in turn chose that the funds be directed to Conservation Force in support of more lion conservation efforts.
The Award Presentation was made to Eric by Charles Williams at the African Professional Hunters Association annual AGM in January and follows:
Ox of Okavango Award
In 2009, the safari hunting industry faced a crisis. It was long past time for promised national lion action plans, yet there was not one in place in all of Africa. A campaign to uplist the lion to Appendix I of CITES at CoP15, then scheduled for January 2010, was brewing because of vulnerability arising from the total absence of national action plans.
One professional hunter stepped up to make the very first serious contribution to the necessary information gathering and development of national action plans. That initial contribution was $20,000, followed shortly by another $15,000, then another $10,000. He also co-hosted a fundraising luncheon in Paris and persuaded others to contribute. All total he contributed more than $50,000 in 11 months. His leadership caused many others in APHA to follow suit. The funds and the demonstration of concern and commitment to the conservation of the African lion helped deter and discourage the threatened uplisting. The funds went towards development of action plans from Benin and Burkina Faso to Tanzania and Zambia. Those helped stimulate plans in Namibia and other countries. That individual PH and the nominee for the Ox of Okavango Award this year is Eric Pasanisi of Tanganyika Wildlife Safaris.
I repeat that the work on the African lion is not complete. Perhaps a quote from Sarel van der Merwe, the Chair of the African Lion Working Group sets forth the immediate challenge:
Although not satisfactory, indications are that the lion range countries are attempting, with greater or lesser success, to draft and introduce national lion or large predator conservation strategies. The year 2010 will probably be the watershed for all lion range countries to finally prove their dedication (or lack thereof) to lion conservation.
Tanzania Professional Hunters Association Honorary Membership: In January yours truly received another honor, this one for work on the African continent in Tanzania. It was the first honorary membership the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association has ever bestowed. The presentation was made by Luke Samaras at a special cocktail reception for the occasion.
The honor was based upon all the lion and elephant work Conservation Force has done in Tanzania as well as the many conservation-based partnerships within Tanzania. The history goes back to the original elephant import suit of 1992. Conservation Force partners in many field projects with Robin Hurt (Cullman & Hurt Community Wildlife Project - now Robin Hurt Foundation), Miombo Safaris (Miombo-Force), Legendary Safaris (Friedkin Foundation), Tanganyika Wildlife Safaris, and most recently Jack Britting- ham’s Tanzania Adventures, Inc. and associated Tembo Foundation.
The advocacy work speaks for itself, but it is important to understand the conservation partnerships with the hunting companies. Conservation Force puts its charity status to work for responsible PHs, operators and their clients. We act as a conduit for donated funds directed to select projects and programs that maintain the wildlife and habitat in the hunting concessions. That is one of the reasons Conservation Force was the leading hunting-based organization and the 19th of over 280 ranked non-governmental organizations in all of Africa for three consecutive years, putting the most on the ground and across the largest number of countries. It is a user-pay system that is growing and is working for the good of everyone and the things we all care for so dearly. The continuation of our wildlife and our outdoor heritage is too important to leave to chance or accident. – John J. Jackson, III.