Proposed Ivory Regulations

The U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service have just posted the proposed revisions for the African elephant ivory trade and sales. The new document is titled Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Rule; Revision and is now posted online at


The U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service will be accepting comment on the proposed revision until Sept 28, 2015. The good news is there does appear to be an antique exemption (see second block quote).

The document is rather long with a lot of material, some of use to appraisers and some not.  I have yet to read the full document (it is a rather long and not enjoyable read), but since it is such an important topic, and this topic was posted on July 29, 2015, The proposed regs have some charts and tables that may be useful as well.  I wanted to get the information out so appraisers can start their review process.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reports
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are proposing to revise the rule for the African elephant promulgated under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), to increase protection for African elephants in response to the alarming rise in poaching of the species to fuel the growing illegal trade in ivory. The African elephant was listed as threatened under the ESA effective June 11, 1978, and at the same time a rule issued under section 4(d) of the ESA (a “4(d) rule”) was promulgated to regulate import and use of specimens of the species in the United States. This proposed rule would update the current 4(d) rule with measures that are appropriate for the current conservation needs of the species. We are proposing measures that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the African elephant as well as appropriate prohibitions from section 9(a)(1) of the ESA. Among other things, we propose to incorporate into the 4(d) rule certain restrictions on the import and export of African elephant ivory contained in the African Elephant Conservation Act (AfECA) as measures necessary and advisable for the conservation of the African elephant. We are not, however, revising or reconsidering actions taken under the AfECA, including our determinations in 1988 and 1989 to impose moratoria on the import of ivory other than sport-hunted trophies from both range and intermediary countries. We are proposing to take these actions under section 4(d) of the ESA to increase protection and benefit the conservation of African elephants, without unnecessarily restricting activities that have no conservation effect or are strictly regulated under other law.

Antique Specimens
Section 10(h) of the ESA provides an exemption for antique articles that are: (a) Not less than 100 years of age; (b) composed in whole or in part of any endangered species or threatened species; (c) have not been repaired or modified with any part of any such species on or after the date of the enactment of the ESA; and (d) are entered at a port designated for ESA antiques. Any person who is conducting activities with a qualifying ESA antique is exempt from, among other things, any restrictions provided in a 4(d) rule for that species, including restrictions on import; export; sale or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; and delivery, receipt, carrying, transport, or shipment in interstate or foreign commerce and in the course of a commercial activity. The taking prohibition would not apply to dead specimens such as antiques. Anyone wishing to engage in activities under this antiques exception must be able to demonstrate that the item meets the requirements of the ESA.

Items that qualify as antiques under the ESA are not subject to the prohibitions in the proposed 4(d) rule. The ESA antiques exemption does not apply, however, to prohibitions imposed under the AfECA on the import of raw and worked African elephant ivory into the United States and the export of raw ivory from the United States. As with the ESA section 9(b)(1) “pre-Act” exemption, nothing in the ESA provides that an exemption under that law modifies or supersedes provisions in other applicable statutes such as the AfECA. The provisions in the AfECA regarding the import and certain export of African elephant ivory were specifically enacted to address conservation concerns with African elephants and were enacted later in time than the earlier, more general ESA exemption applicable to all endangered and threatened species, so the later, more specific restrictions on import and export in the AfECA take precedence over the earlier, more general exemption in the ESA. As noted previously, section 4241 of the AfECA (16 U.S.C. 4241) specifies that the authority of the Service under the AfECA is in addition to and does not affect the authority of the Service under the ESA.

A qualifying ESA antique containing African elephant ivory could thus only be imported if it also qualified for one of the exceptions from enforcement of the AfECA moratorium created by Director's Order No. 210: antique raw or worked ivory for law enforcement purposes, antique raw or worked ivory for scientific purposes, antique worked ivory that is part of a musical instrument, antique worked ivory in a traveling exhibition, antique worked ivory that is part of a household move, or antique worked ivory that was inherited. As noted previously, we believe these exceptions are consistent with Congressional intent in enacting the AfECA, which focused on the harm caused by poaching to supply the illegal trade in ivory. An antique sport-hunted trophy could not qualify for import because it would not be able to meet the requirements under the AfECA that it was taken from an elephant range country with an elephant quota declared to the CITES Secretariat (which did not exist 100 years ago). Because the prohibition on the export of all raw ivory is under the AfECA, the ESA antique exemption also could not be used to export antique raw ivory.

For qualifying ESA antiques containing African elephant ivory that could be imported as described above and antiques containing African elephant ivory that meet all of the requirements under section 10(h) of the ESA and were imported before the AfECA import moratorium was put in place in 1989, whether those antiques could be commercialized in interstate or foreign commerce would depend on whether restrictions are based on the ESA or CITES. Any restrictions that are based on CITES or laws other than the ESA would remain in place.

As discussed earlier, one of the requirements to qualify for the ESA antiques exemption is that the antique must have been imported into the United States through a port designated for the import of ESA antiques. These ports were first designated on September 22, 1982. Therefore, under the terms of the ESA, no item that contains parts of any endangered or threatened species (including African elephant ivory) can qualify under the ESA antiques exemption unless it was imported into the United States through one of the designated ESA antiques ports on some date after September 22, 1982.

On February 25, 2014 (as amended on May 15, 2014), the Service issued Director's Order No. 210, which, among other things, provides direction to Service employees on implementation and enforcement of the ESA antiques exemption. Appendix A to Director's Order No. 210 reiterates the four statutory requirements for an item to qualify as an ESA antique and states that, as a matter of law enforcement discretion, the prohibitions under the ESA would not be enforced for antiques that meet the requirements of being at least 100 years old; being composed of an endangered or threatened species; and not having been repaired or modified with any part of an endangered or threatened species since December 28, 1973, but were imported prior to September 22, 1982, or were created in the United States and never imported and therefore do not meet the requirement of having been imported at a designated ESA antiques port. This Director's Order remains in place. The Service will apply its law enforcement discretion regarding otherwise qualifying antiques that were imported prior to September 22, 1982, or were produced in the United States and never imported, allowing them to be exported, sold or offered for sale in interstate or foreign commerce, and delivered, received, carried, transported, or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial activity, provided all other legal requirements are met. Appendix A of the Director's Order also contains guidance on documentation needed and other information for conducting activities with ESA antiques. Director's Order No. 210, as amended on May 15, 2014, including Appendix A can be found at http://www.fws.gov/policy/do210.html.

As described in Director's Order No. 210, the person claiming the benefit of the ESA antiques exemption must provide evidence to demonstrate that the item qualifies as an ESA antique. This evidence may include a qualified appraisal, documents that provide detailed provenance, and/or scientific testing. Since issuance of the Director's Order, we have heard from some people who are concerned about what the Service might require in terms of documentation or authentication of their antique items. We want to be clear that establishing provenance does not necessarily require destructive testing; there may be other ways to establish provenance, such as a qualified appraisal or another method that documents the age by establishing the origin of the item. We have listed scientific testing (in the Appendix to Director's Order No. 210) as an option for people who may want to make use of it in certain circumstance for certain items. However, this is only one option, in a suite of possible options. The provenance may be determined through a detailed history of the item, including but not limited to family photos, ethnographic fieldwork, or other information that authenticates the item and assigns the work to a known period of time or, where possible, to a known artist. Scientific testing could be necessary if there is no other way to establish the provenance of an item.

In addition, we want to be clear that we do not require scientific testing of the ivory components in a manufactured antique item. Where a person can demonstrate that an item, for example a table with ivory inlays, is older than 100 years, and that the table has not been repaired or modified with ivory (or any other threatened or endangered species) since December 28, 1973, the Service considers the age criteria in Section 10(h) to be met. We would not require testing of the ivory itself to determine its age. Of course, to qualify for the ESA antiques exemption a person must demonstrate that all four of the criteria in Section 10(h) of the ESA have been met.

We also want to clarify that these documentation requirements are not new. The ESA itself places the burden of proof on the person claiming the benefit of the exemption (Sec. 10(g)) and the Service has required documentation for antique items since the 1970s. This documentation requirement is also not unique to African elephant ivory; it applies to specimens of any species listed under the ESA when a person is claiming the benefit of this exemption from prohibitions. Over the years, the Service has provided information regarding acceptable documentation for establishing age and provenance; most recently, in the Appendix to Director's Order No. 210. Our CITES regulations at 50 CFR 23.34 also provide information on the kinds of records a person can use to show the origin of a specimen. We seek comment from the public on whether additional guidance is needed in the regulatory code regarding implementation of the ESA antiques exemption.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services 

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