When you think ‘export violation’, you probably don’t think stuffed animals!

Earlier this month, Federal Customs officials announced that they had seized a veritable menagerie of animal trophies intended for export in the port of Los Angeles. The collection, worth an estimated $9,000, would have made Noah himself proud.

Amongst the late animals were wildebeests, zebras, baboons and alligators. The collection was packed into seven crates marked only as “animal heads” – it’s no wonder customs officials decided to give the shipment a closer look!

It seems a traveler from the Philippines, enjoying a first-time visit to the U.S., found the collection at a Texas liquidator and decided it was just what he needed to spruce up his den back in Manila. He settled on a purchase price and arranged to have the collection sent on ahead. As much as he was enjoying his time in the States, he was excited to get back and unpack his new collection.

Unfortunately for the trophy-loving Filipino gentleman, the shipment never made it. Customs officials identified the violation and seized the shipment. No decision has been made yet on charges but at the very least he will have to forfeit his purchases and won’t get his $9,000 back. His bank account is a lot lighter and his den won’t get the beastly accoutrements he dreamed of. No baboon for back home!

The man claimed he didn’t know the mounts had to be declared to federal wildlife officials and required export permits. In fact, three of the included animals in particular – the baboon, the lynx and the bobcat – required additional permits to export under an international endangered species convention.

Animal trophies are one of many categories of items that require export permits. It is the legal responsibility of the exporter – be it a business or an individual – to determine whether their shipment requires a license. The government doesn’t accept ignorance of the law as a defense.

This brings an important issue to light. Do you know WHAT items require licensing? We tend to think of export violations being associated with military or dual-use items but there is no one generic export licensing system and there are a number of agencies mandating export licenses for different categories of items. It’s up to exporters to do their research BEFORE they send.

Don’t let this happen to you! When you export, do your research and make sure your items are licensed if required. The vast majority of exports don’t require licensing, but when you send one that does without one, it can impact more than your wallet. Remember the man in Manila who wishes he’d done his homework first.