Are Elephant and Rhino Trophies Really Still Legal in New York?
I came across the most surreal sight when I was online obsessing over real estate I couldn't afford: a room full of "big five" animal trophies, including elephant and rhinoceros heads, on the wall. I couldn't help but wonder, "Is this legal?" The answer is surprising.
Trophy Hunting in New York
I grew up in the tiny town of Accord, NY surrounded by hunters, so I'm no stranger to taxidermized turkeys, gunshots in the fall, or even a deer tied to a truck on the way home to get hung in the yard. What I am a stranger to is seeing endangered species used as wall décor. So what does New York State have to say about owning elephant and rhinoceros trophies? It's complicated.
Endangered Trophies in New York
While there are specific federal laws about importing the "big five" (elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard, and African buffalo) that focus more on the permits obtained from the United States government after legally hunting them abroad, New York law focuses on the possession of elephant tusks (ivory) and rhinoceros horns (which are made of keratin, like our fingernails). Here's what they have to say:
Ivory Laws in New York
Broadly, the sale of ivory and rhinoceros horn is illegal in the state of New York, but there are some exceptions. First, possession is legal if the horn or ivory "comprises less than 20 percent of an antique that is at least 100 years old".
The second is if the article has been passed down "to a legal beneficiary, heir or distributee of an estate". Other exceptions include educational or scientific uses and certain musical instruments that were made before the mid-seventies. So is what I saw on Zillow against the law?
To my untrained eye, it seems like the items in this macabre mansion would fall under one (or both) of the first two exceptions. These "trophies" look very old. If they were imported in the 1920s, that could mean they are perfectly legal (even if in poor taste). They also seem old enough to have been passed down from previous generations, ticking off the "heir of an estate" box.
Dead animals aside, this is one impressive piece of real estate. Check out the gorgeous pool and unbelievable views the $4.9 million home has to offer below and keep scrolling to check out a literal castle for sale that used to be owned by none other than former Yankee Derek Jeter (and not a single animal head to be seen).