Trophy hunter faces an empty mantel: exploits legal ivory trade to violate endangered species act

Kokesh legally imported an African elephant trophy mount from Namibia. He then illegally sold the two tusks (similar to the confiscated tusks pictured here) to a buyer in Florida for $8,100 and proceeded to falsely describe the illegal sale in an email to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Last week, a grand jury in Pensacola, Florida indicted Charles Kokesh on three counts: violating the Endangered Species Act and making two false statements, both of which were charged under the Lacey Act.

Kokesh legally imported an African elephant trophy mount from Namibia. He then illegally sold the two tusks to a buyer in Florida for $8,100 and proceeded to falsely describe the illegal sale in an email to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

As email correspondence continued, he went on to falsely account for the location and disposition of the tusks.

Unfortunately, the large, often unregulated legal ivory market makes illegal ivory trade possible.

Kokesh was within legal bounds when he brought the elephant trophy to the states, but the laws prohibit trophy hunters from detaching the tusks and selling them.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) commends the USFWS for catching this activity.

Distinguishing between legal and illegal ivory is both difficult and costly, especially without enough enforcement capacity to fully address the problem – which is significant in the US.

Kokesh’s indictment shows that not only does trafficking happen in the U.S., but that people are looking for (and finding) loopholes that allow illegal sales of ivory.

The U.S. is the second-largest retail market in the world for elephant ivory products, behind China.

If we want to put an end to the elephant poaching that is reaching epic proportions, the United States must take responsibility for our role in the ivory trade.

The U.S. must act to close all loopholes in our current laws that allow illegal ivory to be imported, exported, and sold in the United States

--BA

For more information about our work to end the illegal trade in ivory, visit our campaign page.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia