Matthew McDavitt—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group
It is not uncommon for the estates of individuals at death to possess one or more souvenirs, pieces of jewelry, trophies, collectibles, or artworks made from animal parts, such as carved ivory, fur rugs, tortoise-shell ornaments, crocodile skin leather, and the like. What legal issues might an estate or beneficiary face if he were bequeathed animal parts listed in Endangered Species Act?
The U.S. Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act (“ESA” or the “Act”) (currently codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544) on December 28, 1973, with the aim of barring commerce in the endangered and threatened species listed in the Act, as such financial value contributes to the continuing depletion of such species and the contraction of their populations and range.
Importantly, among the acts prohibited under the ESA, it is forbidden for an individual to “possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship, by any means whatsoever, any such species taken in violation [of the Act].” Id. § 1538(a)(1)(D) (emphasis added). However, this statutory language barring possession of an ESA-regulated species part applies solely to animals “taken in violation” of the Act, i.e., the animal was captured and/or killed and transformed into a commercial product after such species had been listed to the ESA.Read More