An intricately carved statue of a woman made from ivory
Image: Kate Hamilton | DOC

Introduction

Read New Zealand’s CITES requirements for the import and re-export of elephant ivory products.

All Asian and some African elephants are on the CITES protected list under Appendix I. This means that no commercial trade is allowed of them or their products such as ivory unless the product is a certain age.

African elephant populations from Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa which are considered less threatened from trade, are listed on CITES Appendix II. This means some regulated trade of specific items made from the products of African elephants from these countries is allowed.

What do I need to travel with an item made with ivory?

To travel legally with any elephant products including ivory you will need:

  • a permit or certificate from the CITES authority in the country you are leaving from, or going to, to export/re-export or import the item(s) legally
  • a permit or certificate from DOC as the CITES authority of New Zealand to legally enter*, or leave the country with them

*dependent on Appendix listing

Each permit allows for a one-off movement from one country to another. Further CITES documentation is required for any other movements from country to country.

If you arrive or attempt to leave with an item made of or containing products derived from an elephant in New Zealand without a CITES permit or certificate for your movement, we will seize them at the border.

Once items have been seized, there is no way to have them returned to you, and you may face prosecution.

CITES documents for elephant products

If your item has a known date of legal acquisition before CITES added the species to the protected list, it may qualify for pre-Convention status.

If your item qualifies for this status, a CITES Pre-Convention Certificate will be needed to import it.

CITES added:

  • Asian elephants to the protected list on 1 July 1975 and
  • African elephants on 26 February 1976.

If your item does not qualify for pre-Convention status, you will need to apply for a CITES export or re-export permit. The export permit must both be applied for and issued by the country from where you are departing, and the import permit to New Zealand must be issued by DOC.

You will need to allow 20 working days for your application to be processed and pay the appropriate fee. You can use our application form to apply for a permit or certificate:

Without a CITES permit or certificate, bringing elephant ivory into New Zealand is illegal. Since 2013, DOC has prosecuted one man from Napier (who was fined $8,000) and one from Auckland (who was fined $12,000) for importing ivory into the country without CITES approval.

Ivory imports to New Zealand

Between 2007 and 2017, border control received an average of 20 CITES permits for elephant ivory.

These allowed items either made from or containing elephant ivory to enter New Zealand. These were mostly for personal use or as part of a household move.

Most of these were products made before the elephant species was on the CITES list and, therefore, had pre-Convention status. They included pianos, chess sets, cutlery, statues, tusks, bagpipes, jewellery and furniture.

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