Martin Levy of Blairman in Mayfair is backing the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act, which was introduced to Congress earlier this month by Senators Daines and Alexander. Its aim is to amend the African Elephant Conservation Act to conserve ivory while appropriately regulating the trade in the United States.
The US changed the law in February last year to ban commercial imports of African ivory and restrict trade in goods made from or including ivory to those which can be proved to be over 100 years old.
As things currently stand, the onus falls on the seller to demonstrate that an item was legally imported and over 100 years old via documentation such as invoices and export permits, which many items do not have. The 100-year deadline also affects early 20th century luxury objects which included ivory elements (previously the cut-off date was 1976), creating additional uncertainty.
Levy has posted a comment on the Blairman website about the new bill, welcoming Daines' and Alexander's "balanced" proposals on what they see as over-regulation of 'legal ivory'. He says: "It can never have been the intention that the movement of objects of cultural significance should have become embroiled in the universal desire to protect endangered wildlife."
If passed, the bill could overturn some of the restrictive consequences of last year's change in the law implemented by the US Fish and Wildlife Services.
Importantly for the art and antiques trade, the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act proposes an exemption for "… any raw ivory or worked ivory that was lawfully importable into the United States on February 24, 2014 regardless of the dates on which the ivory was acquired; or any worked ivory that was previously lawfully possessed in the United States".
It also includes a limited exemption for African elephant ivory items that were "lawfully imported, exported, bought, sold, possessed or transported, including any presumption or burden of proof applied in such a determination other than the means used by the Secretary as of February 24, 2014".
These amendments would mean that those items that were legal to trade before the law changed last year should be legal to trade now.
Levy notes that "the Daines and Alexander bill represents the position of a coalition of disparate but overlapping interests: musicians, gun owners and antique collectors". He adds: "If adopted, the bill would specifically end what is, in effect, the US Fish and Wildlife Services unilateral ban on the import of lawfully possessed ivory. Impediments to internal trade and legitimate ownership would also be overturned.
"Equally, the bill would lead to significant efforts being funded to assist anti-poaching efforts in countries with at-risk elephant populations."