Thousands of plant and animal species are protected by CITES (Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and
Fauna). Given the sheer density of protected species (over 800
non-tradable species and over 20,000 subject to regulations) the
best way to avoid a lot of trouble at Customs is to bear in mind
one or two simple rules.
Never buy anything made from ivory, tortoise or turtle-shell or
skin (whether from mammals or reptiles). Seashells, eggs, feathers
and anything made from these must also be scratched off your list
of souvenirs, as must coral jewellery (coral is an animal) and
pinned butterflies and insects. Medicines sold in Asian countries
which contain animal ingredients (tiger, rhino, bear, etc.) are
not welcome either.
Our planet is an indivisible whole; animals die when deprived
of their natural environment. Hence exotic wood items and potted
plants must not be purchased. As a responsible traveller, and
out of respect for the countries you visit, please do not bring
archaeological artefacts home with you either.
The penalties facing offenders – heavy fines and legal proceedings
– can often far exceed the cost of their holiday. Furthermore,
some countries don't hesitate to arrest tourists before they board
their flight home. Do you want your holiday souvenir to be a spell
in a foreign jail?