Steve Shackleford Blog

Antique Ivory Exceptions Rule Too Stringent

Russ Andrews uses fossil ivory on his dagger. (SharpByCoop photo)

One potential problem with the ban is that some fossil ivories resemble elephant ivory, such as the mammoth ivory on the handle of this dagger by Russ Andrews. (SharpByCoop photo)

The recently announced federal ban on ivory not only seems to outlaw all import, export, interstate and intrastate sales of elephant ivory, it also appears to make all potential exceptions to the rule such as antiques virtually impossible to meet.

Initially announced on Feb. 11, the ban received more coverage Feb. 26 when the federal website http://www.fws.gov posted a story outlining the ban in more detail, including Director’s Order No. 210 from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service.

The story indicated that while virtually all elephant ivory is now illegal, a few exceptions exist, such as antique elephant ivory. However, to qualify as antique, elephant ivory must adhere to a hodge-podge of requirements that not only are virtually impossible to meet but present prohibitive costs in the process.

For instance, to qualify as an antique, the ivory must be 100 years old or older. However, the person claiming the ivory is that old must “definitively prove” the identity of the species. Such proof “can be in the form of bonafide DNA analysis,” a qualified appraisal or “other documentation,” such as “family photos, ethnographic fieldwork or other information.” If such analysis is required on each and every piece of elephant ivory, it would be cost-prohibitive for individual knifemakers. What’s more, the appraiser and the appraisal must meet strict guidelines in terms of the appraiser’s credentials, the scientific method used to determine the age or species must be described in detail, a detailed history of the article including proof of authenticity must be presented, etc.

Not only are the requirements draconian in nature, they don’t even take into account the fact that no one kept such records of their ivory when they bought it months or years ago, and to obtain such information now is virtually impossible.

Further, there must be proof that the ivory was imported through one of 13 specific ports of entry—12 in the USA and the other in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Notarized statements or affidavits by the exporter or seller are not adequate proof.

The maximum penalty for violations—which would qualify as violations of the Endangered Species Act—is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the individual, and $200,000 for an organization. Those who submit false records or identification of ivory face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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