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Introduction

Not all animals and plants are protected by CITES, so you need to know what it is you are importing.

On this page: 

Check which animals and plants are protected by CITES

Find out which everyday items and activities are covered by CITES:

Check which animals and plants are protected by CITES

CITES lists all species of animals and plants covered by the Convention by their scientific name. A scientific name is comprised of two parts – the genus (eg Tyrannosaurus) and the species (eg rex).

You can use the Species Plus website to search for an animal or plant and confirm it is listed under CITES. You will need to know the appropriate scientific name of the animal or plant you wish to search for, and you will need to have the correct spelling – otherwise you may not receive an accurate result.

If the species is protected under CITES, Species Plus will provide you with the Appendix listing (I, II or III) to help you work out which rules apply – see CITES permits.

Everyday items and activities covered by CITES

People are often not aware of the the rules that apply to goods imported to New Zealand.

Buying online or shopping overseas

CITES rules still apply if you have bought items online or from a retail store and you want to import that item into New Zealand. You will likely need CITES permits to allow them to be legally imported if they contain CITES listed species.

The rules still apply even if the item was farmed, artificially propagated or comes from a captive breeding facility.

Traditional medicines often contain multiple ingredients including plant and animal species. Importers are responsible for knowing what is included in the ingredients.

Common online and retail imports include:

  • belts, handbags, or jerky made from crocodile
  • animal skulls and skins
  • dried butterflies
  • traditional medicines (eg ginseng) – see CITES traditional medicines
  • coral or queen conch shells 

Overseas holiday souvenirs

Bringing home souvenir items found while beachcombing/hiking or buying them at a market is a common activity while holidaying overseas. These items can also be protected by CITES even if it died naturally or is only a part of an animal or plant. Common examples include:

  • coral or clam shells found on a beach
  • an eagle feather found while hiking
  • bone or tooth necklace bought at a market
  • an animal claw gifted to you. 

CITES rules still apply in these cases. You are likely to need CITES permits to allow them to be legally imported. 

Old or heirloom items

Many items that people cherish are those that are very old, particularly if they have been passed down within a family.

Old items such as pianos and ornaments may contain parts of protected species (eg ivory) that would have been acquired long before CITES came into force. You still need a permit to allow import into New Zealand for these items, however the rules are less strict.

Evidence of the age of the item is needed when applying for a permit prior to export – see CITES permits.

Cultural items

People will sometimes bring items of cultural value into New Zealand that may be very old and may be worn on their person. Cultural items are not exempt under CITES rules.

Any cultural items containing CITES species will require CITES permits before being imported. Common examples include:

  • feathers
  • animal skins
  • bone carvings
  • ceremonial clothing or ornaments with animal parts
  • whale tabua.

Exemptions to the personal or household import rules

New Zealand has stricter requirements for importing personal items and household effects than the many other countries. Permits are generally required to import items that are of a personal nature.

Only two exemptions for the import of personal items into New Zealand exist:

  1. If the personal item is from an Appendix III species, then no CITES permit is required.
  2. If the personal item was acquired by you from within New Zealand originally, then you may not need a CITES permit for import back into New Zealand. Evidence may be required to meet the criteria such as sales receipts, family wills and documents, or a signed affidavit. Contact DOC’s CITES team for advice first.

Legally hunted items

CITES animals legally hunted overseas, whether from managed populations or the wild, still require CITES permits for import into New Zealand.

While local authorities may allow the take or harvest of some CITES species, CITES rules governing the import and export of these items still apply. You will need to contact the national CITES Authority in the country of export.

Overseas hunting permits cannot be used in lieu of CITES documentation for the import of trophies - see International travel with hunting trophies.

Fossils

'Fossil' is a widely used term and can vary from fully mineralised material that is millions of years old to more recent sub-fossil items from species like woolly mammoth. Fossils from extinct species are exempt from the CITES Convention.

However, species protected by CITES that are ancient but still alive today, or recent sub-fossils of modern CITES species, still require CITES permits. Examples include:

  • 500-year-old Bald eagle bone
  • 1 million-year-old great white shark tooth.               

All fossils of stony corals (in the orders Helioporacea, Milleporina, Scleractinia, Stolonifera, and Stylasterina) are exempt.

More information 

Importing wildlife? What you need to know about CITES brochure (PDF, 1,773K)

Contact

For further enquiries, contact DOC’s CITES team cites@doc.govt.nz

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