Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Takes Next Steps in Commercial Elephant Ivory Trade Ban, Eases Restrictions on Musical Instruments and Other Uses

May 15, 2014


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

As part of the Obama administration’s commitment to combat wildlife trafficking that is rapidly pushing populations of African elephants, rhinos and other iconic species towards the brink of extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced two administrative actions clarifying trade in elephant ivory. The changes will help ensure that domestic markets do not contribute to the decline of African elephants in the wild, while also allowing certain ivory uses to continue.

Service Director Dan Ashe signed a revised Director’s Order that allows musicians to transport internationally certain musical instruments containing African elephant ivory, and for the import of museum specimens and certain other items not intended for sale. Owners of these items will need to prove that they were legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976—the date that the African elephant was listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)—and have not been bought or sold since February 25, 2014—the date when the Service issued Director’s Order 210 instructing agency staff how to enforce existing restrictions on the commercial trade of elephant ivory.

“We have one goal: to shut down the illegal trade in ivory that is fueling the poaching crisis facing African elephants today. By implementing a near complete ban on trade in elephant ivory, we are effectively closing loopholes and eliminating the cover provided by legal commercial trade that traffickers have exploited for years,” said Ashe. “That said, we have listened to the very real concerns expressed by the regulated community and have made common-sense adjustments.”

The Service also announced a final rule to revise Part 23 of the U.S. CITES implementing regulations. The current regulations contain a provision known as “use after import,” which restricts domestic sales—both across state lines and within a state—of African elephant ivory by requiring sellers to show documentation of the date that their ivory was imported.

When the rule goes into effect within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register, sellers of African elephant ivory will be required to demonstrate that any item offered for sale—whether across state lines or within a state—was lawfully imported prior to the CITES Appendix-I listing of the African elephant in 1990 or that the ivory was legally imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate. Appendix-I covers species around the world most at risk due to international trade, and therefore is the most restrictive of the CITES listings, effectively banning commercial international trade. This change is intended to reduce the regulatory impact on the public without reducing conservation benefits for African elephants.

For more information on the impacts the Director’s Order and U.S. CITES regulations will have on the trade and transport of elephant ivory and other protected wildlife and wildlife products, please see

More information on the Service’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking can be found at

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