May 2010
If you are travelling with wildlife souvenirs or products, make sure you do it legally.

If in doubt, declare the products to border control officials.

Without the correct permit, your product will be seized by border control officials. You may be subject to penalties or fines.

Wildlife trade around the world

Many of the world’s animals and plants are threatened by uncontrolled trade. The Pacific region is home to around a quarter of the world’s globally threatened bird species. The region is also home to numerous species of threatened corals, plants, insects and other animals.

We need to protect the region’s wildlife to ensure it is there for future generations. Global trade in animals, plants and the various products made from them is controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES protects over 30,000 species of animals and plants worldwide. It aims to ensure that international trade in wildlife does not threaten their survival.

Know before you go – how the law affects you

Some tourist souvenirs can threaten the most endangered species. You may be unaware that you are breaking the law by buying them or taking them from one country to another. For example, Tabua (whale tooth) and turtle shell (marine turtle) are both parts of threatened animals.

Sometimes traders will not tell you the truth about what their product is made from or where they obtained it. If you buy something locally, it does not necessarily mean you can take it overseas. Don’t be fooled by statements like, “Believe me, it’s OK”.

If you intend to buy or travel with wildlife products, contact the appropriate government departments before you leave or enter a country to find out if you need a permit.

Traditional medicines

Traditional medicines are also known as ‘complementary’ or ‘alternative’ medicines.

Without a permit, the import or export of traditional medicines containing material derived from species such as tiger, bear, seahorse, Saussurea/Aucklandia (ingredient in Po Chai Pills), orchid, or rhinoceros is prohibited.

Personal items

There are some exceptions to the rules. Contact your local CITES authority to find out more about the exemptions for personal items.

You can help our wildlife survive

Wildlife trade is diverse—it can involve live animals or plants, or the many products made from them such as:

  • clams and shells
  • exotic leather goods
  • musical instruments
  • souvenirs
  • traditional medicines
  • bone, shell, meat and skins
  • live or dead insects
  • plant cuttings or extracts.

If managed properly, trade need not threaten species with extinction. Careful management of import and export activity helps to ensure that these species survive in the long term.

Corals and shells

You may need a permit to export or import corals and shells – as well as jewellery made from these items.


There are more than 15 species of butterfly listed on CITES, many of which are found in the Oceania region. You need permits to import/export protected species.


Monitor lizards have become a staple in the reptile pet trade. They are also traditionally hunted for meat and skins (used on Kundu drums). Native geckos and skinks are protected by CITES and domestic regulations. Permits are required for trade in live animals, as well as in animal parts or products.


From the same family as the possum, the cuscus is readily harvested and sold for meat, pets and fur. The grey cuscus and spotted cuscus are both protected by CITES. You need permits to take these overseas.

Giant clams

Giant clams are harvested for their meat and to sell the shells as souvenir products. Import and export of the meat or shells requires a permit under CITES.

Contacts for more information or to obtain a permit

Australian CITES Management Authority

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
International Wildlife Trade
Telephone: +61 2 6274 1900
Facsimile: +61 2 6274 1921
Website: Australian Government environment website

New Zealand CITES Management Authority

Department of Conservation
Telephone: +64 9 307 9279
Facsimile: +64 9 377 2919
Website: CITES webpage

Other Management Authorities in the region

Check the CITES website

Publication information

Produced jointly by the New Zealand and Australian CITES Management Authorities.


DOC CITES Officer – Wellington
Phone: +64 4 496 1096
PO Box 10420
Wellington 6143

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