Shipping African Trophies

Shipping African trophies is always a major concern for hunters. Many balk at the costs involved and the time it takes for the consignment to arrive. On top of that, the documentation must be absolutely correct for the consignment to be accepted at the port of entry.

Be aware if you are hunting in a group, every hunter must have his own hunting permit in his own name. Never hunt on one hunting permit under one group member's name.

Never be tempted to share a crate with another hunter to internationally export/import hunting trophies in an effort to cut costs. US Customs require a single named consignee per each cargo piece which means trophies from different individuals must not be packed together in one crate. There must be one hunter's name on the hunting licence, all export documentation and on the waybill. So if trophies are found in a crate labelled with a different name, or not listed on the named hunter's documentation, the whole trophy consignment may be impounded, returned to the country of origin (at the hunter's expense) or destroyed. All hunters involved may be held legally responsible for submitting false or fraudulent information. The only exception is that hunters who are 18 years or younger are allowed to include their trophies in their parent's crate.

Here is what happens to your trophies from when they leave the hunting camp through to packing and customs clearance in the US and UK.

Trophies Leaving The Hunting Camp

  • In southern African countries raw trophies are delivered to a local taxidermist for dipping, treating, crating and documentation in accordance with the importing countries regulations.
  • Alternatively, the trophies may be fully taxidermied in the southern African hunting country (usually South Africa).
  • In southern Africa, delivery or collection to/by a local taxidermist may take place quite quickly following the hunt, rather than waiting to take the whole consignment in at the end of the season.
  • Depending on the exact location in more remote wilderness hunting regions, all the raw trophies will usually be moved out of the skinning shed at the end of the season by road to the nearest big town from which they may be exported. Occasionally a batch of trophies maybe moved out earlier if there is a break between clients and a member of staff is going into town.

African Hunting Trophy Export Documentation

It is important to know that there are no allowances or exceptions made with the importation of animal products - it is very strictly implemented and controlled. All export documentation and permits must be completed absolutely accurately. If there are any discrepancies at all, even minor errors such as transposing the date numerals, the receiving country will refuse entry of the trophy consignment, either ordering it to be re-exported to the country of origin or ordering it's destruction.

  • Before leaving your hunting area make sure you have copies of your hunting licence / hunting register which itemizes the gender and measurements of every species taken. If you hunt more than one area or country with different outfitters & PHs, makes sure you retain the same documents, all of which must be signed by you, your PH, your outfitter, landowner and game scout (if applicable). USF&W may request a copy of these documents when receiving your shipment.
  • In countries where hunting is Government-controlled such as Tanzania, your game scout's records of the animals taken + a copy of your signed hunting licence must be given to the Government wildlife office and the outfitter then must pay the Government Game Fees. On receipt of this payment the trophies are issued with an ordinary export permit and, if applicable, a CITES export permit.
  • The export permit has a finite date which must not be exceeded - the trophies must be exported within the time span or another permit will need to be issued.
  • The trophies must then be inspected by a Government veterinary officer who will issue a veterinary clearance certificate.
  • In addition, the African veterinary officer may need to complete and submit the importing country's own veterinary clearance document.
  • These documents must be then copied to the receiving country's taxidermist or shipping broker.
  • CITES Appendix I trophies must have a CITES Import and Export Permit. The CITES Import Permit must be obtained by the hunter before the hunt and retained as date valid until the trophy is imported. As the Import Permit is only valid for 6 months, this may mean it has to be renewed several times before the consignment arrives.
  • The issue of the CITES Import Permit before the Appendix I animal is hunted is often a bone of contention amongst some hunters. There is provision on the USF&W CITES Import Permit application form to apply before or after the hunt. However, it is recommended to have the permit before hunting so it is confirmed to all parties that the trophy can definitely be imported. What is the point of hunting an Appendix I species if you and the hunt team are not 100% sure you are allowed to import it? Also most African hunting countries need to know that the Appendix I trophy will be accepted for import to issue the CITES export permit. As it can take about 3 months for USF&W to make a decision and issue a CITES Import, applying for it after a hunt is just going to cause an avoidable delay. Also you never know...importing countries are quite at liberty to suddenly place an embargo on any animal products from any species at any time.
  • The hunting client's CITES Import Permit is not required if the trophy is going to another African country (such as South Africa) for taxidermy but will be needed when the trophy goes into production and is ready to re-export to the final destination country.
  • CITES Appendix II and III trophies must have a CITES Export Permit only. The application for this is not done by the hunter and will be issued by the relevant wildlife department in Africa on his behalf.
  • For entry into the US, your CITES trophies must be tagged correctly with a specific CITES tag. For example, crocodile or leopard skins must have a CITES tag inserted through the skin and locked in place using the locking mechanism of the tag. A mounted trophy must be accompanied by the tag from the skin used to make the mount. The CITES tag must contain all the information that appears on the CITES documentation.

Raw Trophy Imports Of Concern

The US requires additional importation measures for dip & pack shipments of raw (not taxidermied) hunting trophy products (bones, horns, skins, feathers, etc) that come from areas of the world where specfic animal diseases are present which can be transmitted to humans or animals. From Africa, these species include:

  • African (non-human) primates (monkeys, baboons).
  • African rodents (porcupines, springhares, dassies/hydrax).
  • African swine (giant forest hog, red river hog, warthogs, bushpigs).
  • African viverridae (mongoose, civets, genets).
  • Ostriches

CDC requires a permit for non-human primate trophy materials unless proof can be supplied that the items have been rendered non-infectious. Acceptable proof that items have been rendered non-infectious include special veterinary or taxidermy certificates indicating what chemical process was used to render the animal non-infectious. Southern African dip & pack specialist services and taxidermists may well comply with these dip standards but the same cannot be assumed for trophies from other African countries which may need a CDC primate permit.

CDC requires a permit for rodent and viverridae trophy materials unless proof can be supplied that the items have been rendered non-infectious. See above.

Primate bones and skulls have to meet a specific CDC standard of certified decontamination & bleaching process. Again a bleached primate skull from southern Africa will usually not need a CDC permit and will be given unrestricted entry by CBP/Agriculture.

The application for the CDC non-human primate/rodent/viverridae trophy permit can be submitted by yourself but usually by a shipping broker or taxidermist. Read more from the CDC.

African swine of all species can only be cleared for import by USDA-APHIS..

All ostrich trophy products require a VS-16-6 Import Permit from USDA-APHIS.

Should your trophy shipment contain any of these species, they will be referred for inspection to an approved United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) establishment. They will be further processed to inactivate or remove any potential disease causing agents and returned to you. This will incur further transportation and process charges.

Some taxidermists in the US are approved as USDA establishments and may inspect swine and non-human primates.

Raw trophy products of these species must be packed separately from the rest of the shipment if going to the US. They can go in the main consignment crate as long as they securely packed separately so there can be no potential contamination of the other contents and they are marked accordingly.

Trophy Packing

Trophy packing standards are obviously not in your control but you are in the position to only employ a taxidermist who is experienced in shipping worldwide and who is up-to-date and complies with the international regulations.

If shipping fully worked taxidermy, you may like to ask the taxidermist to send you clear photos of your finished trophies before they are packed and photos of them in the crate before it is closed. Why? As you are embarking on the next, possibly very expensive, shipping phase of trophy importation, you might like to confirm to yourself that the trophies are actually good enough to warrant the expense - particularly if the taxidermist has previously pointed out any problems with your skins when they arrived with him, such as hair slip.

  • Wooden packing crates entering the European Union, the USA and Mexico, must meet the standards stipulated in the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) requirements as laid out in International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) 15 'Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade'. As it applies to shipping hunting trophies, the crating wood, over a thickness greater than 6mm, must be treated and stamped with an International Certification Mark.
  • International trade laws prohibit the use of second-hand timber for crating.
  • To comply with these regulations all trophy crates are usually manufactured from Medium Density Fibreboard at an approved facility.
  • See above for species that must be packed separately.
Trophy Crating
Trophy Crating At Life-Form Taxidermy

Shipping African Trophies

Before the trophies are shipped from Africa, make sure you or your customs agent have received copies of all the export documentation, including the CITES export permit if applicable. The taxidermist will need a copy of your CITES Import Permit, if applicable. Keep the original CITES Import Permit to show USF&W when the shipment arrives.

  • Raw trophies must be air-freighted to their final destination. They must not go by ocean shipping.
  • Ocean shipping may be used for finished taxidermied trophies. See below.
  • It is recommended that you employ the services of a licenced customs broker/agent to facilitate clearance with USF&W and US Customs. It is perfectly possible for to do this procedure yourself, if so inclined.
  • Use a customs broker/agent in the location of your nearest USF&W port of entry and instruct him to clear the trophies through customs and pay the relevant fees.
  • Your customs broker/agent is required to obtain a Power of Attorney and Homeland Security Identification Verification documentation to be able to sign the entry declarations on your behalf. You will need to supply your social security number and Government or State issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport.
  • The trophy consignment must not be shipped until the receiving country has received all the correct documentation and knows which flight the consignment will be arriving on. The port of entry must have at least 72 hours notice so that the veterinary inspection may take place on arrival.
  • When your (raw or finished) trophies are ready, the taxidermist will forward them to the shipping agent who will give you the costs of the onward shipping from Africa to your home country port of entry. Make sure these costs include insurance. Usually you must pay these costs up front with a money transfer to the African shipping agent. Occasionally a shipping broker may take care of these costs and bill you for it as part of their service.
  • In case you are wondering about weird shipping weight charges...air freight costs are based on actual weight or dimension volume 'weight' (amount of space occupied). If your shipment takes up more space than it actually weighs – you will be charged the dimensional volume 'weight'.

USA Flag US Customs Clearance Of Hunting Trophies

  • All shipments of game trophies entering the United States of America must pass inspection by US Fish and Wildlife Service and any other applicable agencies such as CBP/Agriculture, CDC or US Public Health Services.
  • This must take place at an approved US Fish and Wildlife port of entry location. If you can provide a very good reason, your trophies may be delivered to a USF&W non-designated port of entry but you must complete a Designated Port Exception Permit and pay extra fees.
  • As mentioned above some trophies may be referred for inspection to and approved United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) establishment.
  • Once all the USF&W inspections are done, the trophy import documentation is released to US Customs & Border Protection. Although hunting trophies are duty free, this stage takes time as they processed the same way as non-duty free goods.
  • All fees need to be paid by the hunter prior to on-forwarding from the customs location. Failure to pay fees promptly may result in additional costs, such as storage.
  • Fill out an Import Declaration for Wildlife (Form 3-177) at the time of importation. This is not the same form as the normal customs declaration. You or your customs agent can obtain the information required for this form (for example, correct scientific species name) from the documentation, which will accompany the shipment.
  • It is the ultimate responsibility of the owner of the goods (the hunter), to ensure that the Form 3-177 is correctly filled out, even if a customs broker/agent has done it on your behalf.
  • If you have any questions about permits or permit application forms, you should contact the Office of Management Authority, US Fish and Wildlife Service. They can supply you with copies of the Wildlife Import Declaration Forms (Form 3-177).
  • If there is a chance you may need to make an insurance claim, do not sign for the goods as being 'received in good order', until you have inspected them.

Shipping Of African Curios

Many hunters like to include some African curios, either in with their trophy shipment, or separately in their baggage.

  • You must be aware that there might be restrictions on what you can import. Anything purchased that is sourced from animals, plants, coral and seashells, etc could be subject to import restriction. If in doubt about the origin of your curios, declare them at Customs - you won't be penalised if they cannot be imported.
  • If you want to import worked, manufactured or handicraft items made from your CITES trophy for use as clothing, curios, ornamentation, jewellery or other items, you must have the appropriate import/export CITES permits and also it must be indicated that the items are for personal, non-commercial use. For example these may include crocodile skin bags, elephant ear painting or elephant hair bracelets etc.

Ocean Shipping Hunting Trophies

At first glance ocean shipping for finished taxidermied hunting trophies, might look like a viable cheaper option, if you are in no rush to get your trophies - up to 2 months at sea.

Ocean shipping of trophies from Africa is usually easier to arrange and may be cheaper to the US east coast ports than to the west coast.

So if you want to ship your trophies by sea:

  • Get it organised with your taxidermist in Africa. He may need to reinforce the crating and strengthen the attachments for the mounts for rough sea conditions. The taxidermist will also need to arrange transportation of the crate to the ocean shipping agent or port which may cost extra depending on location.
  • In addition to all the usual entry permits and requirements for air-freighted trophies, you or your customs broker must file a Importer Security Filing '10+2'. This is to electronically supply the CBS, at least 24 hours before the ship docks, with full details about the cargo. It is required only to cargo arriving in the US by ocean vessel. If this is not done in time or inaccurately, you can be liable to hefty fines. It's worth noting that is sometimes difficult to know exactly when a ship will dock - they can dock earlier or later than the ETA.
  • The importation of hunting trophies by sea undergo even more intense scrutiny than at an airport. These may include VACIS (Vehicle And Cargo Inspection System) screening of the container or inspection at a Bonded Customs Exam Station where the container is stripped and the crate will be opened.
  • Additional charges for ocean shipping may include terminal handling, port security, all inspection charges and documentation.

UK Flag UK Customs Clearance Of Hunting Trophies

Currently the import of African hunting trophies is aligned with the EU regulations. However, in 2019 the British Government introduced The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill which was finally passed it's second reading on 22 March 2024. It then must be passed by the House of Lords, but if it were not passed by the Lords, it could be enacted anyway, under the provisions of the Parliament Acts.

The ban would cover species listed under the British Principal Wildlife Trade Regulations 2018. These lists are broadly equivalent to the lists of species in appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) that are either threatened with extinction or in which trade is controlled to prevent over-exploitation.

So, if you want to import any African hunting trophies that are not included in the 'British Hunting Trophy Import Prohibition' ...

  • All goods of animal origin must be imported through a port or airport with a Border Inspection Post (BIP) which has been approved for this category of products.
  • You, or your appointed agent, must notify the BIP in advance of the arrival of your consignment of animal products. The time limits are 6 working hours for air consignments and 24 working hours for all others.
  • Your notification can be a completed Part A of a Certificate of Veterinary Clearance (CVC) obtainable from the Port Health Authority (PHA) for the BIP concerned. Alternatively you can provide the same information in any format previously agreed with the PHA
  • When your consignment arrives you, or your appointed agent, must present the veterinary documents to the Port Health representative at the BIP. Your consignment will be subject to three types of check...
  • Documentary: A documentary check is carried out on all consignments. The PHA checks that any required health certificate from the country of origin of your consignment and the completed Part A of the CVC are valid, dated, signed and correct.
  • Identity: The PHA will check that the identity of your goods correspond fully with the veterinary documents supplied.
  • Physical: A physical check is carried out on a percentage of consignments according to the type of animal product and the country of origin. This involves the PHA examining the contents of the consignment to ensure it does not pose a threat to public and animal health. It may also involve taking samples for laboratory tests.
  • Your consignment, or any part of it, may be presented to the BIP facility for the checks to be conducted.
  • If all the checks on your consignment are satisfactory, and you have either made or guaranteed payment for the Veterinary Checks Regime (VCR), the PHA will complete Part B of the CVC.
  • A copy of the CVC will be presented to HM Revenue & Customs to allow Customs clearance. A further copy must travel with your goods to the first premises of destination in the UK. This copy must be retained at these premises for a minimum of 12 months.
  • The PHA will inform you, in writing, if your consignment has failed the VCR and explain the reasons why. You will then have the option of either re-exporting the consignment outside the EU or destruction of the consignment.
  • You will also be told of your rights of appeal and the time limits for any appeal.
  • In addition to the charges payable to the PHA for conducting the checks, you may also be charged for the presentation and handling of your consignment at the port or airport. You may also be liable to storage charges if your consignment is detained because of the VCR.
  • You must realise that failure to comply with these rules may delay, or even prevent, the importation of your consignment.

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Page Updated: April 2024

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