Advocacy Alert: Comment on proposed changes to laws regarding trade and transit of African elephant ivory

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An urgent message to AIC members from AIC President Pamela Hatchfield:
In response to an unprecedented rise in illegal poaching of the African elephant driven by the demand created by the ivory trade, US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) has responded with proposed amendments to existing laws to increase protection of the African elephant. These efforts are in tandem with CITES international efforts and an executive order by President Obama in 2013 to combat wildlife trafficking. Most recently, FWS has amended language in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 4(d) rule to incorporate certain restrictions on international and interstate trade and transit of African elephant ivory. While we strongly support the premise that the African elephant must be protected, we also want to protect cultural heritage. The two goals are not mutually exclusive. FWS has invited the general public to comment on the proposed changes through 28 September 2015.
The AIC code of ethics states, “III. While recognizing the right of society to make appropriate and respectful use of cultural property, the conservation professional shall serve as an advocate for the preservation of cultural property.” Accordingly, we must take a stand for the protection of cultural property, including items made with ivory.
We have crafted the comment below for your use, but you should feel free to alter or add to it.  The more comments received, the more likely it is that our concerns will be heard. We urge you to submit your comments to the FWS portal so that AIC’s voice is heard as they finalize these changes.
You may submit comments electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Search box, enter FWS–HQ–IA–2013–0091, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’
You may also submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–HQ–IA–2013–0091; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: BPHC; Falls Church, VA 22041.
Note that all comments will be publicly posted on

Dear ______,

I am a member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), an organization formed specifically to protect cultural heritage properties, including those fabricated from or incorporating materials derived from endangered species.

As a conservation professional, I support elephant conservation efforts and respect laws that halt illegal trafficking of new raw and worked ivory. At the same time, we must seek the protection of cultural property that was obtained in full compliance with legal regulations at the time of acquisition. Therefore, we advocate for protecting permitted, legally acquired worked ivories from unnecessary destruction, destructive testing, and possible confiscation.

As a member, it is essential for me to state my position on this important issue. While I wholeheartedly support efforts to protect elephants, I wish to call attention to the fact that present efforts to protect African elephants from extinction could also result in inadvertent damage to historic cultural artifacts that are made of or with ivory. Please consider the following recommendations while finalizing all proposed changes to the 4(d) rule:

  • Protect legally acquired worked ivories from destruction, destructive testing, and possible confiscation.
  • Accept documentation that reliably establishes ownership dating to 1976 or before (pre-Convention) as proof that the ivory was legally obtained, and as antique if documentation demonstrates a history over 100 years.

With thanks for your attention to these critically important concerns,


(Your Signature Here)