U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Releases New Guidance On The Importation Of Trophies

Over the past months, SCI staff has been working diligently with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), importers and other members of the regulated community to find a solution to a recent spike in seizures of sport-hunted trophies.

On Friday Feb. 24, the FWS released a memo that clarifies the instructions on tagging and marking leopard, Nile crocodile and African elephant trophies. “We commend the FWS for taking a first step to help reverse the incidences of seizures due to paperwork and procedural problems with importation,” SCI reported. “SCI will continue to work with the FWS to solve importation problems that interfere with trophy importation by many SCI members.”

SCI strongly encourages members who are planning on hunting any of these three species to read through the entire memo and to provide a copy to their Professional Hunter, Outfitter and/or Taxidermist or whoever else might be involved in the preparation and exportation of these trophies.

One particular source of trophy importation problems relates to the tags and/or tusk markings required for the importation of CITES Appendix I trophies. In some circumstances the trophy is taken in one year and imported in a different year. In those circumstances, the tags and/or tusk markings must include different information about the quota from which the animal was taken than must appear on the CITES export permit document.

The memo provides specific information to cover the requirements for these circumstances.

One particularly significant statement in the memo appears in its last line where the FWS explains that, “Sporthunted trophies imported into the United States that do not comply with the marking, tagging or CITES document requirements are subject to refusal of entry or seizure.”

With that sentence, the FWS acknowledges that refusal of entry is a potential strategy that hunter/importers can request to avoid trophy seizures. If and when a hunter/importer is faced with procedural or paperwork deficiencies concerning the importation of the trophy, the hunter/importer may ask for the FWS to refuse entry of the trophy and to return the trophy to the country of export.

A refusal of entry is not a means of fixing existing paperwork flaws. Instead it requires the hunter/importer to restart the exportation process with new exportation and importation documents. While it may be expensive to ship a trophy back to Africa and to seek new documentation, in many cases that cost and effort will be far more reasonable than losing a trophy to seizure.

It is important to understand that the FWS is unlikely to elect to refuse entry unless the hunter/importer specifically asks for that option. For that reason, SCI strongly recommends that hunter/importers who are facing a possible seizure ask that their trophy be refused entry rather than seized. Hunters/Importers should retain the FWS memo and show it to the FWS border official if any question arises. Members who have questions, please contact Bill McGrath wmcgrath@safariclub. org, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lawenforcement@fws.gov.

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