This is by necessity a brief insight to the complex rules governing the sale of items made from or containing parts from endangered species. Because laws and lists change, the following can only be used as a guide, so you should always contact your managing authority for up to date information.
 
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement restricting trade in endangered species. In the European Union, CITES is implemented by Council Regulation 338/97 and Commission Regulation 1808/2001 which set out the rules for the import, export, and commercial use of the listed species.
 
What Does The Law Say I Must Do
EC Regulation 338/97 – Annex A
The regulation applies to both living and dead specimens, and anything that comes from them, including eggs, feathers, blood, semen, wood and seeds.
 
Under this regulation the commercial use of all fauna and flora listed in Annex A is prohibited unless:
• the regulation exempts them e.g. artificially propagated plants and antiques
  or
• they have a certificate allowing commercial use issued under the regulation
 
How Does CITES Affect Antique Dealers
CITES not only affects the botanical and zoological worlds but also, through its concern with dead specimens, it has consequences for antique dealers, auctioneers and their customers.
 
In the European regulation species are listed in one of four annexes depending on the degree to which they are protected. Annex A lists the most endangered whilst Annex D lists the least endangered. Many of the species listed in Annexes A and B can turn up in the antique trade. Some of the most common examples are:
 

Antiques Made From

Probable Annex

Conch Shell

B

Coral

B

Ivory

A

Mahogany*

B

Brazilian Rosewood

A

Tortoise Shell

A or B depending on species

Turtle Shell

A or B depending on species

Whale Teeth

A

*
There are 3 species of mahogany listed in the CITES annex B, Anything made from Honduras mahogany (Swietenia humilis) is subject to CITES controls. For other mahogany species the CITES controls only apply to logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets and plywood and these would be unlikely to appear through the antique trade in their raw state.
 
Many people think of ivory as only coming from elephant tusks, but this is very far from the truth. Ivory can come from various animals, birds and plants, so perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning with a list of ivories.
 
Natural Ivory
Elephant & Mammoth
Walrus
Sperm Whale & Killer Whale
Narwhal
Hippopotamus
Wart Hog
 
Natural Ivory Substitutes
Bone & Shell
Helmeted Hornbill
Vegetable Ivory
 
Synthetic Ivory
Ivory from certain plants and synthetic ivory is still allowed for sale but must clearly state the source of the ivory. Ivory originating from animals, birds and mammals is restricted and governed by a set of rules established by CITES. If the animal is on the endangered list, referred to in CITES as Appendix 1, then strict rules apply. These vary from a total ban to strict documentation and/or an Import or Export permit. With very few exceptions almost every country in the world is a contracting member of CITES, therefore information exists in local language, so ignorance is no excuse.
 
How Do You Know If You Have Broken The Law
This is a difficult question to answer since the law may differ from country to country and therefore you are advised to contact your local managing authority. CITES website gives contact details for all countries so if in doubt ask, or consult the CITES website.
 
Is It A Criminal Offence Not To Comply With CITES
Yes – failure to obtain one of these CITES import or export permits or a sales certificate for an item which falls outside the exemption, is an offence and could render a dealer liable on summary conviction in UK to a fine not exceeding £5,000; or on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or an unlimited fine or both.
 
Movement Of A Specimen Into Or Out Of The EU
The term ‘export’ is used to refer to movements of specimens out of an EU country, destined for a non-EU country, for example from the United Kingdom to the United States. By ‘import’ we mean movements from outside the EU into an EU country.
 
Unlike the position for commercial use within the EU there are no exemptions for commercial import and export of antique items listed on Annex A and B. You will therefore always need an import and/or export permit to bring or receive such an item into the EU or to take or send one out of the EU.
 
When importing an antique specimen into the EU you will always need to have both a CITES export permit to cover the departure from the source country and a separate CITES import permit for the arrival in the EU country of destination. Both these permits must be obtained prior to shipment. We advise you to get the export permit first as the import permit cannot be issued without it.
 
When exporting outside the EU you will always need a CITES export permit for Annex A and B items. Whether you require a CITES import permit will depend on the country of import. It is therefore essential that you find out in advance from the other country’s CITES management authority the conditions that apply to the import of antiques there and how these differ from those of the UK management authority.
 
Sometimes you will be exporting something which although now in the EU, has previously been imported into the EU. We call this a re-export and you will need to make sure that you apply for a re-export permit, although the procedure to follow is the same as for exports.
 
If a customer buys an antique including Annex A or B specimens, the regulations allow people to take these out of the EU without an export permit, but only if the antique is taken as personal luggage when the person leaves the EU. Additionally, the antique specimen(s) must have been outside the EU already at some stage. This is called the ‘Personal Effects Derogation’ and you should check for more information.
 
If however the customer asks you, the dealer, to package and send the
item on to their home address outside the EU then an export permit is needed. The ‘Personal Effects Derogation’ is interpreted and applied differently in some countries and it is important to tell your customer that they must check with the country of intended import before moving the item themselves without an export permit.
 
If you have any doubts as to what paperwork is required please contact your local managing authority before offering for sale, buying or attempting to import or export an item. All of the required permits and certificates MUST be obtained in advance
 
So both buyer and seller beware, do not say you have not been warned.