Import ban prevents buying of ivory overseas

by Robert Szostek
USEUCOM Customs Public Affairs

Heidelberg, Germany — U.S. personnel should not buy elephant ivory while stationed or vacationing overseas, customs officials advise.

Imports of ivory into the U.S. are prohibited under the Endangered Species and the African Elephant Conservation acts.

“The ban applies both to unprocessed tusks and worked pieces such as carved figures, jewelry or piano keys,” said Bill Johnson from the U.S. European Command’s Customs and Border Clearance Agency.

However, exceptions exist for the following:

• Antiques more than 100 years old that have a valid permit based on a certificate of authenticity

• African elephant ivory that the owner registered with U.S. Customs before leaving the U.S.

• African elephant ivory items acquired before Feb. 4, 1977, when accompanied by a valid permit

Mr. Johnson added there are no restrictions on ivory from the extinct elephant-like mammals known as mastodons.

Owners of mastodon ivory items should obtain a statement of origin from the manufacturer stating the article is mastodon ivory, not subject to the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Customs can seize any ivory you buy abroad that is not a properly documented antique. They can fine the owner and do not refund the purchase price.

More information on ivory and other endangered species issues is available online at