Taxidermy and Shipping

Unlocking the Mystery – Trophy Shipping Cost from Africa to the USA

Are you a hunter researching or planning your first African hunting safari? Don’t understand the process of how to get your trophies back home? Have concerns about trophy shipping costs back to the United States?

Nick Bowker Hunting is committed to providing clients with outstanding service at a fair price. Nick Bowker Hunting has no commercial arrangements with any shipping enterprise.

This page provides detailed information on the shipping and clearing process for your trophies, benchmark costs, and the ability to get an independent quote irrespective if you are hunting with Nick Bowker.

How it works

The shipping company collects your trophies from your taxidermist in South Africa.

They manage the customs process and then arrange for the trophies to be transported by plane or ship to the nearest port of entry in the USA.

When the trophies arrive in the USA, a clearing agent ( Customs Broker) takes over.

They handle all interactions with the necessary government departments and ensure that your trophies are delivered to you.

How to ship African wildlife trophies to the United States

Here’s what you need to do to manage your trophy shipping cost.

  1. Select a shipping agent in South Africa after receiving and comparing their quotes.
  2. After reviewing and comparing their quotes, choose a clearing agent (Customs Broker) in the United States.
  3. Each hunter must provide a customs broker with a customs power of attorney, allowing them to handle and take possession of their shipment legally.
  4. Connect the shipping agent who is sending your trophies with the customs broker who will receive them. This ensures they can communicate to confirm all required documents and logistics are correctly arranged.
  5. With your taxidermist, shipping agent, and customs broker, make sure you are insured from the field to your home.
Trophy shipping cost

How much does it cost to ship trophies from Africa?

The total cost to ship trophies from Africa to the United States, based on the example of shipping a 200kg crate to Chicago, is approximately $3,180. This estimate includes four components:

  1. Shipping cost from South Africa to a U.S. port of entry: This is approximately $1,280. It covers the transport of the trophies from South Africa to a designated port in the United States, including all the logistics involved in international shipping.
  2. Service fee of your selected South African shipping agent: Approximately $500. This fee is for the services provided by your chosen shipping agent who coordinates the entire process, from initial pick-up in Africa to delivery in the U.S.
  3. Custom broker fees in the United States: Approximately $900. This fee is for a custom broker who will handle the clearance of the trophies through various U.S. government agencies, ensuring all legal and regulatory requirements are met.
  4. Road freight from the custom broker’s warehouse to your location: The cost here is around $500, but it varies depending on the distance from the broker’s warehouse to your taxidermist or trophy room. This covers the domestic transport within the U.S. to the final destination.

Each of these components contributes to the overall cost, which is a combined total of about $3,180. This estimate provides a good baseline, but actual costs may vary based on specific circumstances and additional services that may be required. See the below tables for the assumptions used.

Trophy shipping cost from South Africa to the US port of entry

Hunters are best routed into Houston or Chicago, as they are the cheapest and quickest ports. South Africa into Houston via Turkish airlines is the most common.

Size of
Air Freight
Agent Fee$500$500
Based on data from TTS as of April 2024

Air freight cost

Air freight cost per volumetric kilogram.

Volumetric weight, also known as dimensional weight, is a pricing technique used in commercial freight transport, especially in air shipping. It accounts for the space a package occupies in relation to its actual weight.

This method encourages shippers to optimize packaging to be lighter and more compact, as bulky but lightweight packages can take up disproportionate space relative to their weight.

South African shipping agent fee

This entails transport to Johannesburg from your taxidermist, checking all paper work, ensuring all permits are in place, export documentation, Airline screening fee, warehouse handling, customs clearance and loading the cargo. The above does not include crating and Packing. See below.

Crating (packing) costs

Crating costs are normally 10 – 15 percent of your taxidermy bill. Crating service is provided by your taxidermist or shipping agent. Crating costs are excluded as they are often included in your taxidermy bill but hunters should check.

Trophy shipping cost from the US port of entry to your home

Trophies must be cleared through U.S. Customs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and U.S.D.A (United States Department of Agriculture) upon arrival in the U.S.

Trophies can be shipped to the U.S. fully finished and mounted or in an unfinished state via a dip and pack service.

But if the trophies are shipped unfinished, And include any unmounted horns or skulls they will be required to move to a USDA-approved taxidermist for re-dipping.

Size of Crate200kg200kg
Delivery Cost
(Based on
500 miles)
Based on quotes from Custom Brokers listed below.

Custom Broker Cost

The cost of shipping trophies involves three main elements: custom broker fees, terminal charges by the airline, and warehouse storage fees. It’s important to note that the cost estimates provided assume that your trophies are cleared by customs within 24 hours. Delays in clearance can lead to additional costs, especially in terms of warehouse storage fees.

Hunters should be particularly cautious about this potential issue. It is advisable to discuss with your chosen custom broker how they handle situations where clearance might take longer than 24 hours.

Understanding their policies and any additional fees associated with delays can help you manage and possibly reduce unexpected costs. Make sure to confirm all details and be prepared for any variables that might affect the total shipping cost.

An alternative is to self clear if you have the time and are within reasonable distance. See the thread below on Africa hunters where some hunters self clear.

Custom broker fees

This process requires clearing customs and obtaining approval from the US government authorities. It’s crucial for your customs broker to complete this clearance within 24 hours.

A broker, cannot move freight away from the airline’s facility until the USDA clears it. They place a hold on all incoming freight, which must be lifted before you can proceed with transporting the freight to its next destination

For the majority of airlines – AGI (Alliance Ground) and WFS (World Freight Services), provide 24 hours of free storage. After this period, storage fees range from $165 to $265 per day.

If the freight arrives over the weekend or on Friday this can be problematic as customs does not work over the weekends.

Some brokers have bonded USDA approved warehouse to move all freight to for clearance (to avoid the very high storage rates).

Airline terminal charges

Terminal charges by an airline refer to the fees associated with the handling and processing of cargo at an airport’s cargo terminal. This cost should just be a pass through from your broker.

Warehouse storage

Once cleared your trophy crate is moved to the broker warehouse for collection. This generally includes a fixed fee and a set number of free days after which your crate starts incurring a daily charge.

Delivery cost to your house

The cost of having your items delivered to your house typically ranges from $250 to $600. This fee varies based on the size of the shipment and the distance it needs to travel. It’s important to note that all carriers charge a minimum of $50 for using a liftgate service, and an additional fee of $75 to $90 is added for residential deliveries, which includes scheduling a delivery appointment with you.

If you prefer to avoid these extra fees, you have the option to pick up the items yourself. Alternatively, you can choose to have the crate shipped to the nearest hub, which is effectively the same as a self-pickup. This approach bypasses the residential, liftgate, and other additional charges typically associated with home deliveries.

List of custom brokers to contact

Trophy shipping quote

Get an independent trophy shipping quote from Richard Lendrum of TTS as well as the recommended shipping company your outfitter uses.

Trophy Shipping Quote

The process from the plains to your trophy room

Dip and packing for trophies to be sent to the USA

When your trophy is skinned, it is preserved in salt at the skinning shed of your safari outfitter until your safari ends.

After your safari, your chosen taxidermist picks up the trophies from the outfitter.

If you want to send your trophies back home to be mounted, they need to be dipped, packed, or tanned.

If you plan to mount your trophies in South Africa, you don’t need to go through the dipping and packing process because that is done during the mounting process.

During dipping and packing, skulls are boiled, hides are treated with a solution, and then dried.

For certain animals like kudu and gemsbok, the horn sheaths are removed to save space and costs before the trophies are crated after drying.

The hides are fully tanned, shaved thin to remove fat, and prepared for mounting.

Skulls are bleached and trimmed to reduce weight and prepare them for mounting, which speeds up the taxidermy process and saves time.

Mounting done in South Africa

If you are getting your mounts made in South Africa, the animal skins are fully tanned, and the skulls are boiled, cleaned, and bleached.

In the full tanning process in Africa, any extra fat is shaved off.

Next, the damp skin is placed on a mannequin or form, shaped, and stitched together, and then it starts to dry.

The details around the eyes and lips are carefully done.

Once the mount is dry, final touches and artwork are added.

When everything is complete, the mounts, skins, and skulls are packed into crates and ready to be shipped.

Shipping process from South Africa

Selecting your shipping agent

Most taxidermists handle their own packaging (Crating) and charge about 10 – 15 percent of the total taxidermy cost for this service.

Some use an export shipping company for packaging.

Your taxidermist will have preferred shipping companies. They will let you know when your items are ready to be shipped and you can choose your own shipping agent or use the one the taxidermist recommends.

It’s a good idea to get a price quote from an independent shipping agent before you agree to ship your items from the taxidermist.

Shipping process in South Africa

Your chosen shipping agent moves the crate to their warehouse, starting the export shipping process.

The taxidermist should have already applied for the necessary permits.

If a government conservation authority needs to inspect, it happens at the shipping company’s warehouse.

The crates are then loaded onto an airplane or into a shipping container for sea transport, after all documents are checked by the import agent.

Finally, the crates are shipped by air or sea to the entry port in the United States.


High-quality crating is essential for safely transporting trophies, as most shipping issues stem from damage within poorly handled crates. Here’s how to ensure your trophies are properly secured during transit:

  1. Secure Mounting: Trophies should be firmly secured within the crate. This prevents movement that could lead to damage. The interior arrangement should be such that fur or skins do not rub against the wood or any internal supports, which could cause wear or tearing.
  2. Handling Horns: For large-horned animals like kudu and gemsbok, the horns should be removable to save space in the crate. Once removed, they must be safely wrapped and securely fastened within the crate to prevent any movement.
  3. Minimizing Space: Effective crating minimizes unused space to prevent the contents from shifting during transport. Proper packing is a skilled task that requires careful planning and execution.
  4. Material Selection: The choice of wood for the crate is crucial. Some woods are sturdier and provide better protection against external impacts. The wood used should be durable enough to protect the contents but also compliant with international shipping standards regarding wood treatment.
  5. Structural Integrity: The base of the crate should be robust, equipped with a solid footer that can withstand the weight of the contents. This design is vital for the safe lifting and moving of the crate with a forklift, ensuring that it can be transported without risking structural collapse.

Investing in high-quality crating is a crucial step in ensuring that your trophies arrive in the best condition, minimizing the risk of damage during their journey.

Clearing Process in the United States

Here’s what you need to do when importing wildlife trophies:

  1. Choose the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Designated Port of Entry closest to where the trophies will be delivered, whether that’s a U.S. taxidermist (for unprocessed trophies) or your home (for processed trophies).
  2. Provide the full name and contact information for your chosen customs broker who will handle the clearance.
  3. Connect the shipping agent who is sending your trophies with the customs broker who will receive them. This ensures they can communicate to confirm all required documents and logistics are correctly arranged.
  4. Submit all your requests in writing, and clearly state any special instructions to ensure transparency with all parties involved. Keep copies of all correspondence for your records.

Hunters should understand that importing wildlife products involves multiple government agencies.

In the United States, these include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These agencies inspect trophies to ensure compliance with customs, wildlife regulations, and domestic agriculture and animal husbandry standards.

Additionally, if the trophy shipment includes primate species, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may also require inspection.

Each agency checks for specific documents to verify that the shipment adheres to current regulations. Missing or incorrect documents can lead to costly delays or even force the return of the shipment to its origin at the hunter’s expense.

In the U.S., each agency plays a distinct role. CBP acts as the coordinator among the agencies, with CBP and FWS handling law enforcement and CBP/Agriculture and USDA ensuring safety against invasive pests and diseases.

How to ship trophies from Africa to the United States


Trophy coverage can vary. It can be covered from the African taxidermist to the port of entry in your home country. Some coverage is for the entire way from a taxidermist in Africa through the freighting, clearing, and transportation to your trophy room, covering the whole journey. Finding accountability should something go wrong can be difficult.

Permits required for shipping trophies back to the United States

When shipping your hunting trophies back to the United States, several permits are necessary to ensure everything is done legally. The following summary applies specifically to plains game hunted with Nick Bowker Hunting. If you plan to hunt animals not offered by Nick Bowker, you will need to consult your own outfitter to determine the required permits for those species. Make sure to gather all necessary information from your outfitter to ensure a smooth and legal transportation of your trophies for South African hunting safari shipping.

South African permit requirements for plains game

Tops permit – threatened or protected species

The Black Wildebeest, Common Reedbuck and Roan Antelope are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species of least concern, and the United States does not require any special hunting permits for importing trophies of these species. However, in South Africa, you must obtain a Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) permit before hunting Black Wildebeest, Common Reedbuck and Roan Antelope.

It is the responsibility of the outfitter to secure permits. Once obtained, the outfitter will pass the permit along to the shipping company and the taxidermist to ensure all legal requirements are met for the export and handling of the trophy.

AIS permit – Alien Invasive Species

Red Lechwe and Fallow Deer, which are not indigenous to the Eastern Cape, are classified as Alien Species in that region. As a result, landowners must obtain an Alien Invasive Species Permit (AIS permit) to have these animals on their property.

This requirement also extends to hunting these species, meaning that anyone planning to hunt Red Lechwe or Fallow Deer in the Eastern Cape needs to ensure that the landowner has the appropriate AIS permit. This permit is crucial for the legal management and control of non-native species., helping to maintain local ecosystem balance.

CITES Permit Sytem

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit system is essential for regulating international trade of species listed under its three Appendices. For any trade involving these species, a CITES permit or certificate is usually required. This document serves as proof from the issuing authority that the trade meets specific criteria: it is legal, sustainable, and traceable, adhering to Articles III, IV, and V of the Convention.

Each country that is a party to the Convention has a designated national CITES Management Authority responsible for issuing these permits, based on recommendations from that country’s CITES Scientific Authority. The parties to the Convention have agreed on a standard format for CITES permits and certificates to ensure consistency and clarity in the trade of protected species. This standardization helps facilitate international cooperation and compliance, ensuring that the trade does not threaten the survival of species involved.

CITES Appendix I

For species listed under CITES Appendix I, the procedure for obtaining permits involves a few key steps:

  1. Obtaining an Import Permit: The client must apply for a CITES IMPORT permit from their local issuing authority in their home country. This permit can be obtained after completing the safari.
  2. Communicating with South African Agents: Once the import permit is received, the client should send a copy to their taxidermist or clearing agent in South Africa.
  3. Applying for an Export Permit: The South African taxidermist or agent will then use the import permit to apply for the corresponding CITES EXPORT permit. The export permit will not be issued without first receiving a copy of the import permit.

CITES Appendix II

For species under CITES Appendix II, the process is slightly different:

  1. Obtaining an Export Permit: The South African taxidermist or the forwarding/dip and pack agents apply directly for the CITES EXPORT permit.
  2. Obtaining an Import Permit: After the export permit is secured, the client’s home country will then issue the CITES IMPORT permit.

Common Species Hunted under CITES Appendixes I and II

Appendix I includes species that are threatened with extinction and for which trade must be subject to particularly strict regulation. This appendix prevents commercial international trade except when it can be demonstrated that such trade will not adversely affect the species’ survival in the wild. Species listed here include:

  • Leopard
  • Black rhino
  • Black-footed cat
  • Cape mountain zebra

Appendix II includes species that, although currently not threatened with extinction, may become so without trade controls. It also includes species that resemble others listed for conservation reasons. These species are regulated to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. Species listed in this appendix include:

  • Hippo
  • Elephant
  • Lion
  • Crocodile
  • Bontebok
  • Caracal
  • Hartmann zebra
  • White rhino
  • All monkeys
  • All baboons
  • Blue duiker
  • African wild cat

Designated ports of entry for the importation of wildlife products in the USA

The following ports of entry are designated for the importation and exportation of wildlife and wildlife products and are referred to hereafter as “designated ports”:

Most trophies from Africa clear through Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, Los Angeles, California, New York, New York and Miami, Florida.

(a) Anchorage, Alaska.

(b) Atlanta, Georgia.

(c) Baltimore, Maryland.

(d) Boston, Massachusetts.

(e) Chicago, Illinois.

(f) Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

(g) Honolulu, Hawaii.

(h) Houston, Texas.

(i) Los Angeles, California.

(j) Louisville, Kentucky.

(k) Memphis, Tennessee.

(l) Miami, Florida.

(m) New Orleans, Louisiana.

(n) New York, New York.

(o) Portland, Oregon.

(p) San Francisco, California.

(q) Seattle, Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a customs broker?

A customs broker is a professional licensed by the Treasury Department after passing an exam.

They are also vetted by the FBI to represent companies or individuals in dealings with customs and border protection and other relevant government agencies involved in importing goods.

customs brokers are well-versed in all the necessary regulations pertaining to your specific products and stay updated on changes in regulations across various government bodies.

They know precisely what information is needed on each form and how to navigate the complexities of various government agencies to ensure a smooth and successful import process.

What to provide your hunting operator to arrange your trophy Shipment?

When arranging for your trophy shipment with your hunting operator, here’s what you need to provide:

Full Legal Name: Give your complete legal name as it will be needed for the hunting license and all related documentation.

Port of Entry: Choose a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Designated Port of Entry that is closest to where you plan to have your trophies delivered. Remember, not every international airport has an onsite FWS office.

Customs Broker: Select a customs broker who will receive the trophies. Provide their full name and contact details. The customs broker will handle all the necessary clearance procedures with the relevant government agencies.

What documents must accompany your shipment and who is responsible for them?

Here’s a breakdown of the necessary documents that must accompany your trophy shipment and who is typically responsible for preparing them:

CITES Permits and Export Documentation: These are often prepared by the shipping agent, although many taxidermists also handle the preparation of CITES and other export documents.

Veterinary Certificates: Usually prepared by the taxidermist to ensure that all health and safety regulations are met.

Hunting License Copies: Provided by the outfitter, these copies are crucial to verify the legality of the hunt.

Accurate Descriptions: It’s important that all items and wildlife parts in the shipment match the descriptions on the documents. This includes specifying the state of the trophies (e.g., finished skulls, dried skins, tanned skins, fully mounted), which helps avoid delays with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Documentation Accuracy: As the importer of record, you need to carefully check all documentation for errors or typos. Don’t assume that documents are error-free or that another party will correct mistakes.

You are responsible and liable for the accuracy of the information provided to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and any other involved government agencies.

Taking responsibility for ensuring that all documentation is complete and accurate can help prevent delays and complications during the import process.

Can trophies from different hunters be put in the same crate?

In international shipping, it’s important to distinguish between “consolidated” and “commingled” shipments, especially when it involves multiple hunters.

Consolidation refers to the process where shipments from multiple entities are packed separately but shipped together under one main conveyance or master bill of lading. Each entity’s shipment is issued a unique house bill of lading that travels under the master bill.

This method allows for shipments to be transported together on one conveyance, yet each is manifested separately and cleared individually.

Commingling, on the other hand, involves packing items from multiple hunters in a single crate. This practice should be avoided.

Exceptions to this rule are limited to family relationships, such as husband/wife and parent/minor child combinations.

Moreover, each hunter must provide a customs broker with a customs power of attorney, which legally authorizes the broker to handle and take possession of the shipment. This legal document is crucial for ensuring the broker can properly manage the customs clearance process.

Understanding these distinctions and following the correct procedures is vital to avoid delays and complications during the import process, ensuring that each hunter’s trophies are properly managed and accounted for.