iXingu Project

Shipping & Customs

All biological material must be accessioned into a Brazilian institution prior to export. Below are documents and procedures used to legally export biological materials to The Academy of Natural Sciences.

Customs Documents (IBAMA & USFWS)

Foreign collaborators leaving Brazil with specimens as checked luggage must have the following documents
available for customs officials at Brazilian airport of departure and US airport of entry
(Project permits also should be on hand).
Foreign exporter MUST notify IBAMA at least one day prior to departure
to ensure that agent on duty at airport is properly informed of shipment.
Otherwise specimens will be impounded!

Material Transfer Agreement
2013 example: INPA/ANSP

An MTA is required between the Brazilian institution at which all specimens are initially accessioned and cataloged and the foreign institution receiving the loan and/or gift of any portion of those specimens. For additional information on MTAs, see below.

Institutional Invoice of specimens exported
2013 example from INPA

Once all specimens are cataloged into a Brazilian collection, one may generate a typical loan or gift invoice of those specimens to be exported. Although not technically required (see MMA Instrução Normativa 154), IBAMA customs officials are likely to ask for such an invoice unless they are made aware of and agree with the provisions of MMA Instrução Normativa N° 154.

Cover Letter
2013 example in English

pdf or Word doc

A detailed cover letter in both Portuguese and English will help Customs officials in Brazil (IBAMA) and the USA (USFWS) properly assess your authorization to export and import specimens, respectively.

Declaration for Importation
USFWS Form 3-177

2013 example:
3-177 Cleared by USFWS

2014 example:
3-177 form
3-177 taxonomic list

Within 180 days of arrival, the person importing specimens must submit a Declaration of Importation (Form 3-177) to the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) serving the port of entry. Blank forms and explicit instructions on how to complete them are available via the USFWS website. Two signed copies of the 3-177 are submitted, one to be filed and the other to be returned with stamp of approval (include a self-addressed stamped envelope to facilitate return).
NOTE: Although the 3-177 has fields for listing all species and their respective quantities (fields 16a & 19a), OLE inspectors in Miami request that only the total number of specimens be indicated as "Tropical Freshwater Fishes" (16a) with the note "see attached taxonomic list" under field 16b. A complete taxonomic list of the genera, species (if known) and common names is then attached to the 3-177 and submitted together (see 2014 example).

Declaration of Importation
Cover Letter

2014 example

The Declaration of Importation (Form 3-177) should be accompanied by a cover letter and copies of all documents pertinent to the collection and export of specimens from Brazil to US. USFWS inspectors will expect an export permit from IBAMA unless they are made aware of MMA Instrução Normativa N° 154 which specifies that specimens accessioned into a Brazilian institution can be exported under the authority of that institution, without additional permits from IBAMA.

Termo de Transferência de Material (TTM)
or Material Transfer Agreement (MTA)

Fulfillment of a request to loan, gift or exchange specimens and/or tissue samples
begins with a formal TTM/MTA between the Brazilian and foreign institutions involved.

NOTE: specimens and/or tissues received by foreign institution on a temporary or PERMANENT basis
may NOT be transferred to third parties by the initial Receiving Institution unless a new TTM/MTA has first
been signed between the original Sending Institution in Brazil and the new Receiving Institution.

Step 1: boilerplate MTA (English) received from Brazilian institution and reviewed by appropriate representatives & authorized signatory at foreign institution (e.g., museum or university legal representative). TTM/MTAs typically employ similar (if not identical) text among Brazilian institutions, but may incorporate revisions year to year.

Note: Technically, a foreign institution needs two TTM/MTAs, one with
Brazilian institution indicated as SENDING INSTITUTION and the second with Brazilian institution as RECEIVING INSTITUTION (although some Brazilian institutions do not request the latter).

Boilerplate MTA
example for ANSP-LIRP

Step 2: if authorized signatory at foreign institution requires modificaitons to TTM/MTA, those changes are shared with Brazilian institution for approval. In the example provided, the original boilerplate text is highlighted alongside the modifications, which should ultimately appear in the Portuguese (TTM) and English (MTA) versions.

Step 3: once the two institutions agree upon the revised text, TTM and/or MTA is filled out and signed by authorized person at foreign institution. At least 4 signed originals (in English & Portuguese) may be needed: 1 each for foreign and Brazilian institutional and departemental files, respectively. The 4 signed originals are mailed to the Brazilian institution for corresponding signatures. Once signed by Brazilian institution, 2 original signed copies should be returned and kept on file at foreign institution.

Photocopies of completed & signed TTM/MTAs must be included with all shipments from Brazilian institution to foreign institution.

Examples of TTMs (Portuguese) or MTAs (English) between
the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University & various Brazilian institutions.

Unless otherwise noted, all TTMs/MTAs incorporate revisions to Conditions 11 & 12
as required by Drexel University & approved by Brazilian institution.


Instituto de Biociências, Univ. São Paulo

2013 TTM (pdf) signed by Carlos Eduardo Falavigna da Rocha & Robert McGrath (Drexel Univ.)


Instituto Nacional de Pesquisa da Amazônia

2014 TTM (pdf) signed by Lúcia Rapp Py-Daniel (INPA) & Robert McGrath (Drexel Univ.)


Lab Ictiologia Ribeirão Preto (LIRP), Univ. São Paulo

2015 MTA (pdf) signed by Fernando Luis Medina Mantelatto (LIRP) & Robert McGrath (Drexel Univ.)


Museu de Ciências e Tecnologia - PUCRS



Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi

2014 MTA (pdf) signed by Nilson Gabas Junior (MPEG) & Robert McGrath (Drexel Univ.)


Museu de Zoologia da Univ. São Paulo

2014 MTA (doc) signed by Marcos Domingos Siqueira Tavares (MZUSP) & Robert McGrath (Drexel Univ.)

UFRGS Univ. Federal do Rio Grande do Sul 2014 MTA (pdf) signed by Prof. João Ito Bergonci (UFRGS) & Robert McGrath (Drexel Univ.)


Univ. Federal Rio de Janeiro

2012 MTA (doc) signed by Francisco de Assis Esteves (UFRJ) & Edward Daeschler (ANSP); OBSOLETE (i.e., without revisions to Conditions 11 & 12)

Shipping Biological Material to Brazil

The following procedure for shipping biological material to Brazil has been successfully employed
by staff of the Ichthyology Department of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Unless requested/required by shipping/receiving institution, overnight couriers (e.g., DHL, FedEx)
are discouraged as it guarantees seizure of package by Brazilian customs officials.
Shipments via overnight couriers (DHL, FedEx) also may incur USFW inspection fees.

ANSP specimens are typically shipped via US Postal Service regular airmail (no tracking number);
however, such shipments take 1-3 months to arrive at Brazilian institution.
We are currently experimenting with shipping specimens via USPS Priority Mail Express,
which provides a tracking number and does not incur extra USFW inspection fees.

Declaração para Exportação

In addition to relevant TTM/MTA (described above), shipments of biological material to Brazil must be accompanied by a Declaração para Exportação (DPE) form to be completed by shipper at foreign institution.

Boilerplate (blank form) used by ANSP to send biological material to various Brazilian institutions.
Example of completed DPE form used to accompany shipments to Brazil.

Step 1: FAX notification of export to US Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement serving your jurisdiction.
USFW must be notified at least 72 hours prior to proposed export. This can be done by FAX (blank example) or by filing an electronic declaration (eDec) online.

Step 2: Assemble and properly package biological material. Preserved specimens are wrapped in coth and sealed in plastic poly tubing (0.006 thickness) with minimal amount of alcohol (enough to keep specimens and cloth moist with minimal pooling of liquid). Specimen packs sealed into larger collective plastic bag (0.004 thickness). Collective bag placed into another plastic bag (0.004) along with vermiculite (e.g., Grade 4, 8-10 oz) to absorb any leakage (specimens are now triple bagged). Bag(s) of specimens placed in sturdy cardboard box and filled with styrofoam packing peanuts.

Step 3: Assemble documents to be placed INSIDE shipping box.
All such documents typically placed in plastic bag (kept open); bag of documents placed inside box on top of packing peanuts (for ready access if box is opened by customs).

1) Photocopy of completed/signed TTM/MTA.

2) Original completed/signed DPE (keep a copy for your records).

3) Two copies of institutional invoice (e.g., museum loan form listing specimens), one to be kept on file by receiving institution and one to be signed and returned to shipping institution (return copy).

4) Notice to postal inspectors indicating general nature of shipment & guarantee of return postage if package undeliverable.

5) Extra address label matching one used on outside of box.

Step 4: Assemble documents to be placed on OUTSIDE of shipping box.
All boxes shipped from ANSP are wrapped in brown Kraft (mailing) paper sealed with clear plastic packing tape.

1) USFWS Form 3-177 Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish or Wildlife.
Form 3-177 accompanies all shipments of biological material to institutions outside of the US. Explicit instructions for completing the 3-177 available via the USFWS website. At ANSP, 4 copies of completed 3-177 are printed and signed by shipper. Two copies are kept in departmental files to be mailed to USFWS Office of Law Enforcement serving the port of exit (e.g., Philadelphia) within 180 days of shipment. A third copy of 3-177 is stapled to copy of institutional invoice kept on file until receiving institution formally acknowledges receipt of material (i.e., by returning signed copy of same invoice). The fourth copy of 3-177 is annotated with text "Shipping Copy ONLY, original filed with US Fish & Wildlife Service" and "Inspetores Postais Brasileiros: Declaração para Exportação e Termo de Transferência de Material (TTM) DENTRO da CAIXA". Shipping copy of 3-177 is folded and placed in plastic window affixed to outside of box (an additional small label indicating "Contents — Contenido — índices" added to window).

2) Photocopy of US Fish & Wildlife Service Permit authorizing sending institution as Designated Port for import/export of wildlife products (stapled to USFWS Form 3-177).

3) Address label (be sure to confirm shipping address with Brazilian institution).

4) USPS Customs Form 2976. Complete this form with Contents = other (checkbox), Value = $0, and Description = "museum specimens" or "museum material". Fill in name and address of sender and addressee, sign, date and affix to outside of box.

Step 5: Mail box via US Postal Service regular airmail.

Step 6: Mail signed 3-177 form to USFWS office of Law Enforcement within 180 days!

Drexel Docs | Project Permits | Shipping & Customs | Brazilian Visa