Regulations Amending the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) – Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn

Key findings from the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) conducted for Regulations Amending the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) – Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn, as published in Canada Gazette, Part II.

Global concerns have increased regarding elephant and rhinoceros decline and the negative impacts on their populations from poaching and illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. There have been growing calls for Canada to consider strengthening domestic measures on importation and exportation of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Mandate Letter (December 2021) also includes a requirement to work with partners to curb illegal wildlife trade and end elephant tusk and rhinoceros horn trade in Canada.

The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) and the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) set requirements for the international trade of Canadian and foreign wildlife species that may be at risk of overexploitation due to illegal trade.

WAPPRIITA and WAPTR are also the legislative instruments through which Canada meets its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Canada is a party. CITES regulates international trade in specimens of species of wild flora and fauna based on a system of permits, which can be issued only if certain conditions are met. When these conditions are fulfilled, the trade is legal, sustainable, and traceable. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Export permits are required for all CITES listed species. Import permits are also required for Appendix I listed species. Commercial trade in Appendix I specimens is generally prohibited. The Convention allows CITES Parties to implement stricter measures than those set by the Convention to provide additional protections to selected species.

International trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn is currently permitted when it was acquired before the species was listed under CITES in the mid-1970s (known as “pre-Convention” ivory); and some strictly controlled trade in newer elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn, such as elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn from legal trophy hunts. Legal non-commercial trade could include elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn moving between countries as part of a household move (a piano with ivory keys), elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn acquired in a legal hunt, and elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn used for scientific research.

Canada’s restrictions on trade in elephant tusk and rhinoceros horn include measures stricter than those required by CITES. Notably, Canada requires an import permit prior to entry into Canada for all elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn specimens of Appendix I listed species, including those specimens that are pre-Convention or from animals bred in captivity (which CITES exempts from import permits), unless they qualify for the personal and household exemption.

The amendments to WAPTR significantly limit the import and export of raw tusk from all elephant species and raw horn from all rhinoceros species including the import and export of elephant tusk and rhinoceros horn hunting trophies. Permits for importation and exportation are only available for museum specimens, scientific research, zoo or enforcement activities (e.g. investigations or prosecutions requiring enforcement agencies to send specimens for court cases in Canada or another country, specimens to be analyzed in a foreign forensics lab, or outreach events in other countries where seized items are used for public education purposes). The amendments also create stricter import and export permitting requirements for all worked elephant tusk and worked rhinoceros horn, which includes all other types of elephant tusk and rhinoceros horn not defined as raw. Under past regulations, elephant tusk or rhinoceros horn that is a personal or household effect was exempt from import and export permitting. The changes remove that exemption and require import and export permits for all worked elephant tusk and all worked rhinoceros horn, making the implementation stricter than past permitting requirements.

The amendments are not expected to have any significant effects on the Canadian environment or Canadian wildlife, as elephants and rhinoceros are not endemic to Canada. The increased restriction on the import and export of raw elephant ivory and raw rhinoceros horn may lead Canadian big game hunters to seek trophies from Canadian species, however the effect of a switch to large game in Canada will likely be negligible as statistics on imports of raw elephant ivory and raw rhinoceros horn in Canada show that very few Canadians engage in these overseas activities.Footnote 1 

Overall, the amendments are expected to benefit Canadian society by increasing Canada’s contribution to international efforts undertaken to reduce declines of certain elephant and rhinoceros populations. The amendments will have important positive environmental effects and will contribute to the Government’s international commitments related to wildlife, notably:

United Nations 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15: Life on Land

G7 2030 Nature Compact, which commits to the global mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030

2030 targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity

Additional permit requirements ensure all elephant tusk and rhinoceros horn imported to or exported from Canada is subject to permit. Environment and Climate Change Canada officials will be able to track the number of permit applications for elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn imports, which will enable the collection of more data and provide a clearer portrait of Canada’s footprint in the international trade. This will ensure the Government of Canada has the data necessary to determine whether it needs to take further steps to help curb the country’s participation in the trade.

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