In late May some USF&WS Inspectors began seizing leopard trophies that had tags showing the quota number of the leopard but did not also include the total quota for the country. For example, the tag had “86” (the number of that animal) but not “86/250” or “86 of 250” or “86-250.” A number of very responsible countries don’t put both numbers on tags because of the space it takes, its irrelevance to the identification of the particular animal and the fact that the country quota is an indisputable number on public record. The total country quota is set by the 177 Parties at CITES Conferences of the Parties. The figure is posted by the Secretary General of CITES on the CITES website and is posted on the USF&WS’ website. The quotas for leopard hunting trophies and skins for personal use are set forth in CITES Resolution 10.14 (Revised). Its inclusion on the tiny tags is perfunctory.
The first trophies seized were from Mozambique. Had we not been alert and had The Hunting Report not issued an E-mail Extra Bulletin warning the hunting community, it would have been worse. Shipments were stopped across the globe while we contended with the problem here in the US and with CITES everywhere. With the help of import agent John Meehan at Fauna & Flora, the International section of USF&WS Law Enforcement has released the trophies and shipments are again taking place. Importers and exporters need to verify the expiration dates of import and export permits to see if they must be renewed. If a hunter’s trophy was held up at some transit point, the owner/hunter must establish if a re-export permit is needed.
One could certainly claim that the inclusion of the total number of the undisputed, fixed, total quota is unnecessary. The related CITES Resolution, Res. Conf. 10.14 (Revised), states that the tag should contain “the number of the specimen (okay so far) in relation to the annual quota….” The U.S. regulation, 50 CFR 23.74, states the same thing as that CITES Resolution/Recommendation. The catchphrase is “in relation to the annual quota,” not the annual quota itself. This blip was a new requirement without any warning and contrary to the longstanding practices of many countries. What are the inspectors doing and why are their supervisors and the Chief of Law Enforcement tolerating this war on innocent and foreign programs?