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May 28, 2013

Federal Agencies Work Together to Bring Indictment of New Mexico Trophy Hunter

The Humane Society of the United States’ Chief Program and Policy Officer Michael Markarian released the following statement praising the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the federal indictment of Charles Kokesh, who is alleged to have violated the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act by selling two African elephant tusks and for making false accounts of wildlife related to that sale.

 “We commend the U.S. Department of Justice for filing criminal charges in this case, as well as the investigation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives working together to unravel the allegations in this case. Unfortunately, while trophy hunting is legal in many countries, the importation of sport-hunted trophies into the United States can serve to fuel an already unsustainable demand for ivory. Bringing these cases to light and pursuing vigorous prosecutions should help to prevent the illegal sale of elephant tusks from becoming part of a much larger problem.”

According to the court documents, in 2006 Kokesh imported two African elephant tusks from Namibia into the United States legally as a hunting trophy. He then sold them for $8,100 in cash and firearms. Kokesh has been charged with three counts, one under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and two under the Lacey Act. Kokesh faces a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison for violations of the Lacey Act, and an additional $25,000 fine and up to six months in jail for the ESA violation. 

The indictment is available here.

Facts: 

  • African elephants are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • According to a recent report, the African elephant population is under threat from the illegal ivory trade, with an estimated 17,000 elephants killed in 2011 to fuel this trade.
  • African elephants hunted legally in many African countries, and the tusks and other parts can be legally imported to the United States with proper permits and documentation. However, it is illegal for the hunter to sell these items once they are in the United States.
  • The Lacey Act is a conservation statute that protects wildlife by making it unlawful to engage in interstate commerce, import or export, of fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of United States, foreign or state law.

Media Contact: Rebecca Basu, 240-753-4875, rbasu@humanesociety.org

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