One of the biggest changes in the new Fish and Wildlife internal regulations for CITES wildlife is the definition of the term “trophy”. Proposed regulation changes have been floating around since May of 2000. In spite of the many comments in response to the Federal Register Notices, objecting to these changes, the Fish and Wildlife Service saw fit to put into place the wording they have been proposing for nearly 8 years. The effective date was 09-24-07.

According to Fish and Wildlife the term “hunting trophy” no longer includes any “utilitarian” object manufactured from the animal, such as jewelry, elephant hair bracelets, clothing, boots, gun cases, purses, etc.
Those items have to be coded as a “P” for “personal” use only. However, the caveat here is whether the animal carries a CITES I or CITES II or III designation and if there is any special annotations tied to that animal.

CITES I animals such as Leopard often have the floating bones or claws manufactured into jewelry like a necklace or capped to use as charms for a bracelet. Because there would not be a separate US Import or Export Permit coded with a “P” the claws would have to remain in the pad of the paw. The regulations specify how Appendix I trophies and parts can be used after import. They can only be used for primarily non-commercial purposes and any condition or limitation the Service places on the face of the import permit must be honored.

The biggest animal affected is African Elephant. There is an annotation to the CITES listing that the only items allowable to be made up for export are elephant skins and certified Ekipas (a type of necklace that is considered folk-art). Therefore, if you have paid to have gun bags, boots, wastebaskets, etc. made up from the elephant you legally sport-hunted you will not be able to import it to the United States. When I questioned one FWS employee regarding this; knowing that hunters only have these made up for personal use and not resale, I was told there was no way FWS could guarantee that the made-up article actually came from the specific elephant hunted. Many countries consider the making up of these items to be one of their principal livelihoods. With the enforcement of these regulations they will face an even direr state than they presently do.

We at Coppersmith are working with Conservation Force, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Safari Club International and the Dallas Safari Club in an attempt to get final clarification from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Our e-mails sent to the Law Enforcement Division of FWS dated August 30th, seeking clarification, have not been responded to. The regulations make it quite clear that any item imported contrary to CITES becomes “contraband” at the time of the import, thus there is no custodial or property rights to it by the importer.

John Jackson of Conservation Force pointed out in a recent article “Just because it is a final regulation does not make it a legal regulation, particularly if it does not have a basis in law, is arbitrary or capricious, or is contrary to CITES.


Dr. Don Heath D.Sc.

Editor, African Hunter Magazine