Approximately 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants are protected by CITES regulations.
The CITES Secretariat has a species database that holds information about all CITES species.
These species are also listed in the Schedules to the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989.
What is CITES?
CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES regulates and monitors imports and exports of endangered species to ensure that their long-term survival in the wild is not threatened.
What is Pre-Convention status? How do I know if my item is Pre-Convention?
An item qualifies for Pre-Convention status if you can prove it is older than when the species was added to CITES. For example, the African elephant was added in 1976, so ivory or other elephant products older than that qualify for Pre-Convention status. You will still need a permit for Pre-Convention items, but the permitting requirements can be less strict.
I suspect my item is Pre-Convention, but how can I prove it?
In order to qualify for Pre-Convention status, DOC needs to see evidence of the age of the item. Evidence can be authentication from an antiques dealer, old family wills and documents, or a signed affidavit. The evidence needs to be submitted with the permit application.
I’m filling in my permit application form. How can I find out what the Latin name is for the species?
An easy way is to look online through a search engine. Another way is to check the species database on the CITES website. Otherwise, contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger to help you.
I see lots of framed butterflies for sale overseas. Can I bring one back to New Zealand?
Some butterflies (ie, some birdwing and swallowtail species) are covered by CITES, and therefore require an export permit from the country of origin. Contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger to find out if the species is covered by CITES.
Cactus - rainsticks
I bought a rainstick when overseas. Can I bring it back into New Zealand?
Yes, but you will require a CITES permit.
Can I bring caviar into New Zealand?
Yes, but you will require a CITES permit.
Clam - shells and meat
Can I bring clam shells and meat into New Zealand?
Yes, but only with an original CITES export permit issued by the CITES management authority in the country of export (eg, Fiji, Cook Islands). You may be told that you do not need a permit, but without one, the items will be seized.
I am going on holiday to the Islands. Can I bring some coral back with me?
You are allowed to bring into New Zealand fragments or broken finger-like dead coral less than 30 mm (measured in any direction) without a CITES permit. For any coral pieces bigger than that, and for live coral, you need a permit. You also need a permit for any black coral items.
Coral and CITES factsheet (PDF, 287K)
I bought a crocodile souvenir overseas. Can I bring it back to New Zealand?
Yes, but you need a permit from the authorities in the country of origin. This applies to items such as shoes, handbags, belts, etc.
Crocodiles are endangered species, and are carefully regulated by international law with all crocodile species protected by CITES. To cross any international border with a crocodile specimen, you need to show border control officials a CITES export permit. This permit should be issued by the country of origin of the crocodile. If the crocodile did not originate in the country in which you bought it (which is likely), you may need a CITES re-export permit.
You may be told that you do not need a permit if the souvenir is made from a farmed crocodile. In this case you will need an official certificate of captive breeding issued by the CITES management authority in the country of export in lieu of the export permit, otherwise the items will be seized at the border.
Some countries allow you to import up to four crocodile items without a CITES permit. However, New Zealand does not offer this exemption and you will need documentation to import all personally owned crocodile items which were not acquired in New Zealand.
I would like to import some cycad seeds. How can I do that?
It depends on the species that you want to import. Generally, the import or export of seeds of CITES Appendix-II cycads do not require CITES permits. Seeds of Appendix-I cycads require both import permits and export permits. It is best to contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger to ensure you have the right documentation.
I have some eagle feathers that I would like to bring back to New Zealand. How can I do that?
All birds of prey – including eagles – are protected under CITES. Therefore, regardless of cultural importance, permits are still necessary. Without these permits the items will be confiscated. You may also want to check with the authorities in the country of origin for any other regulations that may exist.
Can I bring ginseng into New Zealand?
There are two types of ginseng – American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Red or Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng). In general, ginseng in the form of teas, extracts, pills, etc. can be imported into New Zealand without a permit. Ginseng in the form of roots (whole roots, sliced roots, parts of roots) may need a permit.
Ginseng and CITES factsheet (PDF, 151K)
I saw some Hoodia online and would like to order it? Can I do that?
You can order Hoodia online to be shipped to New Zealand, but it must be accompanied by a valid CITES export permit issued by the country where the Hoodia is ordered (in many cases, the USA). DOC has been informed that some companies claim to have valid permits, but do not send proper documents, and the Hoodia has been confiscated. Look carefully into the company before ordering Hoodia online.
I ordered some Hoodia online, but instead received a 'notice of seizure' form. What happened?
Your shipment of Hoodia was seized at the border because it did not comply with CITES regulations. It may not have had the proper CITES export permit, or there may have been problems with the permit. Some Hoodia is sent with fake “certificates of authenticity”, which are not CITES permits.
I am migrating to New Zealand and have some CITES-listed items with me. What permits do I need?
The permits you need depend on the actual items, the country they were acquired in and the country from which you are moving. While New Zealand allows some CITES specimens in without a permit, the country of export may not allow them out of the country without a permit.
Exporting countries may advise that CITES-listed personal or household effects are exempted from permitting requirements. The only personal or household effects that can be legally imported into New Zealand without a permit are those which the owner acquired in New Zealand. You will need a permit for all other CITES-listed personal or household effects.
How can I prove I acquired my items in New Zealand?
In order to qualify for the personal and household effects exemption you may need to provide evidence that you acquired the items in New Zealand. Evidence can be sales receipts, family wills and documents, or a signed affidavit.
To ensure you get the correct permits and your items are not confiscated, contact a DOC CITES ranger before bringing the items into New Zealand
I am moving away from New Zealand and have some CITES-listed items with me. What permits do I need?
The permits you need depend on the country you are moving to. Some countries allow CITES species to be part of a household move without a permit, others require a permit. To ensure you get the correct permits, contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger for more information and the CITES management authority in the country you are moving to.
I have been overseas and brought back a hunting trophy. What permits do I need?
The permits you need depend on the species that you have hunted, and the country you have hunted in. To ensure you get the correct permits check out documentation for hunting trophies.
Insects and spiders
I bought a framed scorpion/tarantula/beetle while I was on holiday. Can I bring it into New Zealand?
Some scorpions, tarantulas and beetles are covered by CITES, and therefore require an export permit from the country of origin. Contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger to find out if the species you have is covered by CITES.
I inherited some antique ivory. It is overseas now, but I would like to get it sent to me in New Zealand. How can I do that?
You will need to apply for an export permit from the overseas CITES office. Contact information for these offices is on the CITES website. You will also need proof that it is antique. This can be through authentication by an antiques dealer, by showing old family documents, or by a signed affidavit. Talk to the local CITES ranger for more information.
I am leaving New Zealand and have some antique ivory. How can I take it out of the country?
To take ivory out of New Zealand, you will need a CITES re-export permit, and depending on where you are going, you may need an import permit. Contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger. We recommend that you contact the authorities where you are going, as some countries have very strict requirements about importing ivory (eg, Australia, European Union, USA).
I am going overseas temporarily with my bagpipes, which have ivory mounts. What do I need to do?
You need to contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger and apply for a re-export permit. Depending on where you are going, you may need more documentation. Check with the authorities in the country you will be visiting.
I am an avid gardener, and I see some beautiful orchids available online. Can I order them and get them delivered to New Zealand?
The entire orchid family (Orchidaceae) is listed on CITES. However, there are some exemptions for certain hybrids. Contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger to find out if the species you would like to import are covered by CITES or if there is an exemption.
Do I need a permit for personal items that I have owned for a few years? What if I am only visiting a country for a few weeks?
The CITES regulations about personal items vary country-by-country. It depends on the items you have, the country you live in, and the country you are going to. Contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger to find out exactly what requirements you are subject to.
I am immigrating to New Zealand, and I want to bring my pet parrot with me. How do I do that?
New Zealand has not allowed the import of live birds since 1997 due to biosecurity reasons. Unfortunately, at this time, you can not import your pet bird into New Zealand.
I am leaving New Zealand to move to another country. How can I take my pet parrot with me?
You will need a CITES export permit to take your parrot with you. You can apply to the nearest DOC CITES ranger. You will also need to talk to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) about any requirements they have. The importing country will also have regulations, so look into those as well.
I was online and saw that I can get a pet hamster/snake/frog/beetle/chimpanzee/etc. How can I import one into New Zealand?
New Zealand has strict biosecurity regulations, and does not allow in new species as pets. It is not possible to import any of these species. There is more information about this on the MPI website.
Can I import a savannah cat into New Zealand?
New Zealand does not allow importation of savannah cats. Contact MPI for more information.
I have a queen conch tourist souvenir. Can I bring it into New Zealand?
Queen conch (Strombus gigas) is a Caribbean species of shell, although they are sometimes sold in other parts of the world.You will require a permit from the exporting country to bring these shells into New Zealand.
I would like to send or exchange samples with a university/zoo/research institute in another country. How can I do that?
The way to send or exchange samples depends on where the samples are going, and what type of samples they are. The following factsheet has more information, or you can contact your local DOC CITES office.
Scientific transfers under CITES factsheet (PDF, 40K)
I bought some seahorses overseas. Can I bring them back to New Zealand with me?
Yes, but you will require an export permit from the authorities in the country of origin.
I had my property seized when I entered New Zealand? Can I get it back?
In general, it is not possible for DOC to return seized items. Visitors may apply to take the seized item out of New Zealand if they are departing from the same airport they entered and meet certain other requirements. The back of the 'notice of seizure' or surrender forms gives a full explanation of our policy.
If you have more questions, contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger.
Can I get a permit now that I am back in New Zealand?
All CITES permits must be obtained before taking an item out of the country of origin. It is very unlikely that the country of export will issue you with a retrospective CITES permit. Retrospective permits are issued and accepted only under special circumstances.
Can I give the item to a school or other educational place instead of it being destroyed?
Once forfeited, the item becomes the property of the Crown (New Zealand Government). DOC has arrangements with various schools and museums to lend items for educational and awareness purposes. If you would like to request that your item is included in the lending collection, inform DOC and we will do what we can to accommodate your request.
Why isn’t there any information at the airports and on aircraft about CITES?
A series of factsheets and brochures are available at all international airport terminals in New Zealand and at many travel agents. DOC is bound by the rules and regulations of the airport authorities and must abide by these in regards to where this information is displayed, which sometimes is not in the best position for the departing traveller. We have approached a number airlines in the past asking if CITES information can be available for passengers on the flight, but all have declined this offer.
What shark and ray species are covered by CITES?
Shark and ray species, listed on Appendix II of CITES, are:
- oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)
- scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena)
- porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus)
- basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)
- great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
- whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and
- manta rays (Manta spp.).
Species included in Appendix II are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but trade in them is controlled to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.
Are these protected species under the Wildlife Act?
Oceanic whitetip, basking, great white and whale sharks and manta rays are fully protected in New Zealand waters under the Wildlife Act.
I’ve traded shark species before – why do I need CITES documentation now?
Regulation under CITES has been in place for some shark species for a number of years. Eg, CITES certificates of origin have been required for the international trade in porbeagle since September 2000.
In 2013, the 178 countries who belong to CITES decided to add new shark species to the CITES Appendices, or amend the level of regulation for sharks already listed. This decision came into force on 14 September 2014.
I’m landing sharks in New Zealand which were caught in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Do I need a CITES permit?
Specimens taken in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and not exported – ie, where no international trade occurs – are not subject to CITES regulation. If products are subsequently exported to another country a CITES permit will be required.
I’m an authorised participant in the porbeagle quota management system – do I need a CITES permit?
If you wish to trade porbeagle internationally you will have to apply for relevant CITES permits.
Who can apply for an export permit?
Anyone can apply for a CITES permit. When you apply for a permit you will be asked to prove your shipment has been legally acquired by providing your Licensed Fish Receiver registration number or by making a statutory declaration that the shipment was obtained from a commercial fisher or licensed fish receiver.
Do CITES regulations cover specimens obtained in the high seas?
Yes, CITES regulation applies to specimens taken in marine areas not under the jurisdiction of any State. You will need to apply for an 'Introduction from the sea certificate' when specimens taken in the high seas are landed. Special provisions apply if the vessel and port state differ or if the vessel has been chartered.
The country I wish to export to advises I will need a CITES import permit. How do I apply for an import permit?
Some countries have stricter domestic measures regarding trade in CITES specimens. You may need to apply for an import permit from the CITES management authority in that country. Contact a DOC CITES ranger for further information and the contact details of other CITES management authorities.
How do I apply for CITES documentation?
To obtain a New Zealand CITES permit or certificate, complete and send the application form and the required fee to DOC. Allow 20 working days for the application to be assessed and processed. Contact email@example.com
How long are CITES permits valid for?
Permits cover one consignment and are valid for 6 months.
What happens if I don’t apply for a CITES permit?
Your shipment may be seized at the New Zealand or overseas border and may not be able to be imported into the destination country.
I collected some seashells while on holiday. Can I bring them back into New Zealand?
Queen conch (Strombus gigas), giant clams, and many freshwater mussels are listed on CITES. In general, an export permit from the country of origin is needed to bring these specimens back to New Zealand. Before buying souvenirs, contact a DOC CITES ranger to see whether you need a permit. Also check the section on Queen conch and giant clams for more information.
I saw some amazing animal skins while I was on holiday. Can I buy them and bring them back to New Zealand?
It depends on the species. The most sought-after species tend to be covered by CITES, and permitting is rigorous. Eg, all big cats (Felidae) are covered by CITES, as are most species of zebra. Check with your nearest DOC CITES ranger for more information.
Do I need a CITES permit to bring my own personal traditional medicines into New Zealand?
Yes, many traditional medicines contain endangered species. Medicines containing material derived from endangered species are regulated and CITES permits are required to import or export these medicines. It does not matter how much material is in the medicine – any amount requires a permit.
If you intend to buy or travel with traditional medicines, contact the appropriate government departments before you leave or enter a country to find out if you need a permit.
Common medicinal ingredients that may need a CITES permit are: po-chai (Saussurea costus), orchids (Dendrobium, Gastrodia, Bletilla), pangolin, bear, tiger, saiga, turtle, seahorse (Hippocampus), and tree fern (Cymbotium barometz).
Can I bring medicine containing musk into New Zealand?
All species of musk deer are on CITES, and in general, an export permit is needed to bring medicine containing musk into New Zealand.
My traditional medicine has been confiscated. Can I get it sent back to the original country?
No, seized items can not be sent back to the country of export. To do this would be breaking New Zealand law and CITES regulations.
Why do I need a CITES export permit from DOC to take my whalebone out of the country?
All cetacean (whale, dolphin, and porpoise) species are listed under CITES. When New Zealand joined CITES in 1989, it meant that we also agreed to comply with CITES rules. Because whales are listed in either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES, an export permit is required for whale items (bone, teeth, etc.) to leave New Zealand. Be aware that in some cases, you will also need an import permit from the destination country.
Why is it so hard to take some whalebone pieces (like musical instruments and Maori art) out of New Zealand compared to others?
Not all whale species are treated the same, and the degree of protection depends on how threatened the species is. Some whale species are listed under Appendix I, and some under Appendix II. Appendix I has stricter rules, and requires more documentation (ie, an import permit and an export permit) before you can travel. In addition, some countries have regulations about whales that are stricter than CITES. Contact your nearest DOC CITES ranger for more information about this.
Can I bring my tabua from Fiji into New Zealand?
Yes, you can bring it, but you will need to have an export permit issued by the Fijian CITES authorities.