August 6, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins,

Vicki M. Boatwright, or

Mitch Snow 202-208-5634



If you are planning to travel abroad, take note: all imports of ivory into the United States are prohibited under the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act except:

bona fide antiques more than 100 years old, which can be imported for any purpose with a valid permit;

personal and household effects of African elephant ivory registered with U.S. Customs upon exportation and now being re-imported; and

African elephant ivory items acquired for non-commercial use prior to February 4, 1977 (first listing under CITES), when accompanied by a valid special pre-convention permit.

A recent decision to relax some trade controls for African elephants does not change these restrictions on ivory imports into the United States. Under this decision, taken at the June 1997 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe will be downlisted from the treaty's highest level of protection, Appendix I, to Appendix II, which allows the possibility of international commercial trade under a system of permits. The downlisting is effective September 18, 1997.

Elephant populations of the 34 other African elephant range countries remain on Appendix I, as does the Asian elephant. All populations of African elephants remain listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, with Asian elephants listed as endangered.

If Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe fully satisfy conditions designed to protect elephants against poaching and illegal trade and ensure the health of wild populations, a limited international trade in raw ivory may be resumed beginning March 18, 1999. At that time, the three countries will be allowed to export an experimental quota of raw ivory only to Japan, which has a traditional domestic market for ivory. This trade will be closely monitored and, as an additional safeguard, Japan will prohibit export or re-export of any ivory for commercial purposes. If these conditions are not met or if illegal hunting of elephants or trade in elephant products escalates, the three elephant populations can be returned to Appendix I.

The three countries also agreed to direct all net profits from the sale of this ivory into African elephant conservation through enhanced monitoring, research, law enforcement, and more support for community-based management programs.

Even if this extremely limited trade is permitted, the importation of ivory into the United States is still banned. Some limited exportation of souvenir ivory carvings was approved for Zimbabwe, but these items may not come in to the United States. Any ivory purchased abroad (other than properly documented antiques) could be confiscated upon importation into this country. If your purchase is seized by Customs or wildlife inspectors, you will not be refunded the purchase price and you might be subject to monetary fines.


Release#: N97-70

1997 News Releases

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