| What should travelers know about buying
souvenirs made from animals and plants? Are there any laws in place that
prevent people from taking these products out of countries and bringing
them into our own country?
These are questions we certainly had so we went
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the World Wildlife Fund for
answers. There is a great brochure called "Buyer Beware!" for anyone
traveling to another country. Here's what it says.
Just because items made from wildlife are
on sale in other countries doesn't mean that it is okay to buy them
and bring them into our country. We have strict laws that are meant
to protect endangered species worldwide, not just our own. There is
also an international treaty, Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, in place that seeks to prevent the
capture of rare wildlife to sell for profit.
Why, do these laws and treaties exist? The primary
reason is that many of the world's most precious plants and animals
are declining at an alarming rate. There is a tremendous demand for
some of these wildlife products from consumers all over the world. That,
with the added ability to transport products anywhere makes it easy
to purchase endangered wildlife products even in your home town.
By being aware of the impact that buying these products has on the further
decline of certain species and by not buying these products, individual
travelers can help to save animals and plants. If there isn't a market
for them, then they won't be captured and sold. This is certainly one
very easy way for individuals to make a difference in the world.
Some of the laws that a traveler might be breaking
when they buy a wildlife product and/or attempt to bring it into our
- The Endangered Species Act. This law
prohibits the import and export of any plant or animal listed as endangered
as well as many of the species listed as threatened by the U.S. government.
- Lacey Act. This act prohibits the importation
of any animal that has been captured, transported, or sold in violation
of any foreign law. Fortunately, many counties ban or strictly limit
trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
- CITES, Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This is a
wildlife treaty signed by over 130 countries. It regulates and sometimes
prohibits the import and export of wild animal and plant species that
are threatened by trade.
- Marine Mammal Protection Act. This
U.S. law prohibits the importation of marine animals or any part of
a marine animal. This of course includes whales, dolphins, seals,
sea otters, walrus, and polar bears.
- African Elephant Conservation Act.
This act prohibits the importation of products made from ivory, the
tusks of elephants. It does allow people to bring in entire tusks
taken from elephants that were hunted legally in certain African countries.
- Wild Bird Conservation Act. This act
regulates and, in some cases, prohibits, the importation of wild and
exotic bird species.
Here are the guidelines that the U.S. Department
of Fish and Wildlife suggests we and other travelers follow.
- First, it is very important when considering
the purchase of any wildlife product that you try to determine where
it came from. Remember though, wildlife is sometimes collected or
killed in one country and then smuggled into another country with
false permits which makes it hard to trace the origin of the product
- Second, you should always check to see what
restrictions may exist in the country where you are purchasing the
product or wildlife and in the United States.
Animal Products to Avoid
These are some animal products that travelers
should certainly be careful of purchasing.
Reptile skins and leather are often
used in watchbands, handbags, belts, and shoes. This includes:
- all sea turtle products
- products made from black caiman, American
crocodile, Orinoco crocodile, and Philippine crocodile
- almost any lizard skin originating in Brazil,
Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, India, and Nepal
- many snakeskin products originating from
Central and South American countries
Leather products made from the pangolin (anteater)
originating from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia may not be brought
into the United States.
wild bird species are threatened by habitat destruction and the wildlife
trade. High numbers of birds die during their capture, transportation
to the United States, and when they are kept in quarantine.
Ivory from either Asia or Africa is generally
prohibited. Purchasing ivory, like the purchase of any wildlife product,
encourages poachers and traders to continue their practices.
Any fur from most of the spotted cats in the
world can not be brought into the United States. These include the
jaguar, snow leopard, tiger, ocelot, margay, and the tiger cat. Also
prohibited are furs from many of the marine mammals.
The collection and sale of coral from coral
reefs is prohibited in many countries. Coral reefs are the main component
of some marine communities and collecting pieces jeopardizes the marine
animals and plants that depend upon them.
There are certain plants that are also protected
by these laws. Some of these are orchids, cacti, and cycads. Any plant
you bring into the United States must be examined for desease and
Organizations You Might Want To Contact
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of
P.O. Box 3247
Arlington, VA 22203-3247