Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Ivory Ban and You: May 2014

In February 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory.  With that pronouncement, intended to protect against wildlife trafficking and poaching, the Administration threw the world of antiques and musicians into a blur of confusion.

From an appraisal perspective, establishing value will involve a multi-faceted approach to the subject item, no easy task in this dynamic situation.

The ban allows for "limited exceptions", but pay attention to the fine print.  Antique dealers, estate sale professionals, collectors and owners of instruments, furniture and decorative collectibles containing ivory or even pieces of ivory could be criminally liable for their property if in violation of the ban.  It is worth reviewing whether your antiques, musical instruments or hunting trophy require documentation.  While the final framework is still being codified, a May 15, 2014 update has been released:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ivory Ban: May 15 2014 Update

Everyone who has sold, purchased, inherited, imported or exported ivory must be familiar with this document, there will be another update in Summer 2014.  Expect unintended consequences since there will be multiple Agencies involved with enforcing this evolving set of rules.  "When in doubt, document or don't do it" is always a good rule of thumb.

Legal, Pre-Ban Hunting Trophy:  Documentation Required

Inherited Antique Ivory:  Keep it Out of the Estate Sale Unless Properly Documented

In my opinion, the critical Q & A sections regarding antiques are as follows:

Antique Dealers

Can I currently import antique items containing African elephant ivory for commercial purposes?

No. The Service no longer allows any commercial importation of African elephant ivory. This prohibition, which was originally established via the 1989 African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA) moratorium, applies even to items that qualify as antiques.

Private Antique Owners

How can African elephant ivory be imported for personal use?

You may only import worked African elephant ivory for personal use as part of a household move or inheritance or as a musical instrument provided that the ivory was legally acquired before February 26, 1976; the ivory has not been transferred from one person to another person in pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014; and the item is accompanied by a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pre-Convention certificate. Worked elephant ivory can also be imported as part of a sport-hunted trophy, if all other requirements for sport-hunted trophies are met.

The penalties can be stiff:  One year in prison and $100,000 fine for the individual.

If you are seeking further information regarding the acquisition of an exclusion certificate, either a CITES Pre-Convention Certificate or an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Certificate contact:  managementauthority@fws.gov

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