In recent months two new kinds of wildlife parts have been seized for forfeiture. The first is hybrid impala from the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and the other is elephant bracelets (hair and foot sole). Seizure of impala from RSA periodically comes to our attention. The impala are seized and forfeited as suspected endangered listed black-faced impala because of black markings on the face and back of the legs and tail of the trophies. They are not black-faced impala. Rather, they are hybrids, and we understand that the ranchers and RSA authorities represent them to be hybrid common impala.
Hybrids are not protected under the ESA, unlike CITES, but Law Enforcement seizes the trophies, and the burden is on the hunter to prove they are hybrids. We have yet to handle one of these cases because our petition for remission charge is a flat $2,500 fee, and no one to date has wanted to bear that cost for their trophy or the greater cause for the good of all. For many years Conservation Force handled all such matters free as a public service, but it was not free to us and the loss of opportunity costs was far greater than that.
Today many seizures have to be treated as private violations of law and regulation and handled outside of the parameters of Conservation Force on a private legal fee basis. This has not been an easy transition, but if the individual trophy owner does not care enough to pay a relatively small flat fee, we need to stop providing self-sacrificing free professional services.
We stand ready to fight whenever someone cares enough to pay the flat fee. Some may take the pretty hybrids, believing that they are getting ahead at a certain risk, when in reality hybrids are not protected under the ESA, thus not subject to forfeiture except by default.
The second item is a first-time occurrence, as far as we can determine. Elephant hair bracelets and bracelets made from the soles of elephant feet have been seized and noticed for forfeiture. The bracelets were in the trophy shipment and apparently treated by Law Enforcement as crafted curios although clearly part of the elephant in the same shipment.
When the term “trophy” was redefined by USFWS at the suggestion of the antis, Conservation Force opposed the inclusion of traditional trophies, specifically citing bear rugs and elephant bracelets made in the hunting camp by skilled craftsmen. The USFWS excluded bear rugs but did not respond to the comments about elephant bracelets. Nevertheless, USFWS has not been seizing the bracelets until this recent incident.
The USFWS has also proposed a return to the more traditional understanding of the term “trophy” after the CITES Parties at CoP15 passed a Resolution expressly to clarify that “trophy” includes “manufactured” parts of the animal taken on a sport hunt for personal use. The regulatory change has been pending for some time with no certainty of adoption.
Such bracelets are traditional trophies and are among the most precious personal property an elephant hunter can own for his personal use. We have filed a petition for remission and will advise on the outcome.