Customs Clearance Stories from the Gallagher Archives. 

Importing an Elephant?!

Machinery is a pretty normal item in the supply chain, and clothing is certainly common.  Sometimes, however, we encounter rather odd things like furniture made with animal parts (such as chairs with zebra heads, couches with crocodile hides, etc.)  We also have been known to clear live dogs or dead warthogs through customs.  But Billy the Elephant tops the cake.

You might think it is no big deal shipping a live elephant from Antwerp to Denver, but let me assure you this is no simple endeavor.  To start with, seven people from the Denver Zoo flew to Antwerp, Belgium, including one zookeeper, one assistant curator, the area curator, two veterinarians, the vice president for animal care and one communications staff member.  They spent time with Billy getting to know him, after which Billy was trucked from Antwerp to Amsterdam.  Billy then traveled with four members of the team (two veterinarians and two elephant keepers) on a 14-hour direct flight from Amsterdam to Denver, arriving in his new city of residence on 6/23/13.  Billy is the first Asian elephant imported into the U.S. in 30 years.

Is that even legal?

That is not the end of the story, however.  Once Billy arrived in the United States, he was met by a host of….. laws!  You see, we have many agencies of the U.S. government that care about the importation of live elephants.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service required an original CITES certificate (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permitting the movement of Billy to the U.S.  They also wanted to inspect Billy upon arrival in Denver.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture had an “Elephant Team” who met Billy upon arrival and sprayed him with certain chemicals to kill any bad germs or organisms being transported on his skin.  They also required lock tags on all crate opening and banding of the crate to prevent leakage on the journey to the zoo.  Billy was also required to be transported straight from the airport to the zoo and quarantined for 30 days.  And of course, U.S. Customs & Border Protection required an entry for Billy and all duty and fees paid.  (Fortunately, live elephants are entitled to duty-free entry!)  And all of these requirements follow on the heels of the requirements of the Belgian government.  Gallagher is proud we were part of the team that brought Billy, a now beloved member of the Denver Zoo, to Denver.

Billy the Elephant, cleared through Customs by Gallagher Transport Int’l on June 23, 2013

See this Youtube video:

Importers tend to think only in terms of dollars and cents:  how much will I owe in duty?  But many times there are other very significant issues before and beyond duty that must be encountered and dealt with.  Sometimes it’s not a matter of how much you owe the government, it’s a matter of whether the U.S. government is even going to allow your product into the country.

Ask the previous owner of the aforementioned couches with crocodile skins.  They currently are the property of the U.S. government, because the importer failed to get his CITES certificate permitting him to import crocodile skins into the U.S.  The result:  his couches were seized.  His mistake was he failed to do his homework to know what was required.

It’s a good thing we did all of our homework on Billy’s importation.  It would have been terrible to see the government seize a teenage elephant!

To see an updated video of Billy, check this one out. He’s now been in Denver for 6 years. Looks like he has grown up to be quite the artist!

Billy the elephant painting