The Laws

A frequently encountered misconception is that all ivory is "illegal" indicated by that oft heard phrase "I thought ivory was illegal". NOT! The following is a summary of the international and U.S. Fish & Wildlife laws which regulate the commerce of ivory: The international trade in wildlife and plants is regulated by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (C.I.T.E.S.) [a multinational protege of the United Nations]. Formed in 1973, the aim is to establish worldwide controls over plants & wildlife that require protecting due to declining populations. Headquartered in Switzerland, C.I.T.E.S., delegates meet every two years to review data & set new quotas to increase, decrease or maintain the level of protection on individual species. C.I.T.E.S. regulations do not control a country's internal commerce, only the international trade between member nations.


All orders of oosik, walrus, fossil walrus, hippo or warthog ivory that are to be shipped out of the U. S. require a re-export permit which costs (for current permit fees please inquire) per shipment and takes 30-45 days to acquire (considerably less time than they used to). Elephant ivory is not exportable. Mammoth and mastodon ivories do not require a permit. This fee must be included with foreign orders for these ivories.

Within the United States, wildlife product commerce is regulated on a state and federal level. Interstate (between states) commerce of wildlife products in the United States is regulated by the U. S. Endangered Species Act of 1972 by the Dept. of the Interior/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service & by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 administered by National Marine Fisheries Service. We will give a review of Federal wildlife law in the following paragraphs. Unfortunately we do not have the space to review individual state wildlife laws. Each state has a Department of Fish & Wildlife or Game Department located in the state's capitol city.

We recommend that you check with your state game officials before buying wildlife products for resale (private ownership is not restricted). To find out about your state's wildlife laws, call the state Fish & Game Dept.- Law Enforcement Division in your capitol city. You can ask them about the regulations but have them mail you a copy, then read it. Wildlife agents are often an incredibly poor source of accurate info.

*African Elephant On the C.I.T.E.S. Endangered Species List. Importing, buying, and selling of African elephant ivory is not allowed internationally. It cannot be imported into or exported out of the U.S. or practically any other country of the world. It is legal to own, buy, sell or ship within the United States (except in Washington, New York, New Jersey and California where sales are prohibited or restricted). This may be changing in 2015 with an end to interstate sales of this legally imported ivory.

We no longer buy or sell elephant ivory due to an initiative that passed in Washington State December 3, 2015. It is not legal to buy or sell mammoth or elephant ivory in New York, it is not legal to buy or sell any ivory in New Jersey. California has a similar law that will be going into effect in July 2016. Unfortunately these laws do nothing to protect elephants being illegally killed in Africa due to poverty and corruption in Africa and Asia. They are poorly thought out, oppressive and possibly unconstitutional (time will tell), promoted by a powerful industry that collects millions of dollars to “save something” but does nothing to address the real problems in Africa. They only strip value and property rights of legally acquired ivory from owners.

* Asian Elephant On the U.S. & C.I.T.E.S. Endangered Species List. Importing, buying, and selling of Asian elephant ivory is not allowed internationally or interstate within the U. S.

* Bowhead Whale Baleen Protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Legal to sell via an exemption allowing Eskimos to hunt whales and sell baleen crafts.

* Hippopotamus and Warthog Protected but not endangered. Once it has been imported into the U.S. no permit or documentation is necessary to buy or sell these ivories interstate. Hippos are dangerous animals and a serious problem in many parts of Africa. They account for more human deaths per year than crocodiles and poisonous snakes combined. Populations are frequently thinned out through government culling operations. The meat, hides and ivory are utilized. Warthogs are also very common and are hunted for food. A export permit is required to ship these ivories out of the U.S. (For current permit fees please inquire.)

* Mammoth or Mastodon Different animals, different looking tusks, the cut ivory can look nearly the same. Commerce in this 10,000-40,000 year old ivory is completely unrestricted. A great deal of this ivory in cut form looks practically identical to elephant ivory (except for the outer layer where all the color and weathering is). Our friends at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory have discovered a reliable indicator for differentiating between prehistoric mammoth and modern elephant ivory. Color is no indication; it is the angle that the cross grain lines bisect themselves. Angles of less than 90% indicate that it's mammoth/mastodon, angles greater than 120% show that it's elephant. This information is now being shared with customs and wildlife agents around the world so that mammoth ivory will clear customs inspections and not be subject to seizures or delays.

* Sperm Whale An endangered species regulated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Importation for commercial purposes has been prohibited since 1973. Interstate sales of registered pre-act teeth with scrimshaw is allowed under a special federal permit. Unregistered pre-act teeth can no longer be registered and cannot be transported across interstate lines for commercial purposes. They can be sold intrastate as long as state law does not prohibit. Antique scrimshaw (100 years plus) can be sold interstate. We do not buy or sell whales' teeth outside of Washington State.

* Walrus are regulated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. Raw walrus ivory predating the Dec. 21, 1972 law, tusks bearing the Alaska state walrus ivory registration tags or post-law walrus ivory that has been carved or scrimshawed by an Alaskan native (Eskimo) are legal to buy, possess, and sell. Raw walrus ivory obtained after 12/21/72 is not legal to buy or sell unless both parties are Eskimo (it is legal to own). A export permit is required to ship walrus ivory or oosik (legal as per above) out of the United States. (For current permit fees please inquire.)

* Fossil Walrus Ivory is not restricted as it pre-dates the 1972 cutoff, it is legal to buy and sell anywhere within the United States. Shipping ivory or oosik out of the U. S. requires a permit. (For current permit fees please inquire.)

Emin Pasha with some ivory, circa 1883

Please Note: Orders for merchandise totaling less than
$50.00 are charged a $5.00 processing fee.


Page last updated: June 13, 2016