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If you are planning to bring or ship traditional medicines to New Zealand you may need a CITES permit. Find out if you need a permit and how to apply.

Some traditional medicines contain species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Before you bring them into New Zealand, you need to know what species they contain and if you need a CITES permit. If you need a CITES permit for your medicines but don’t have one:

  • they will be seized, and
  • you could be fined or prosecuted.

Examples of traditional and alternative medicines

Traditional or alternative medicines which contain CITES species come in various forms. Some are raw materials or ingredients like whole and sliced roots and stems. Others are in commercial medicine packages like tablets, pills and plasters.

It doesn’t matter how you bring the items into New Zealand, whether they are from species that are farmed or wild, or whether they are for personal or commercial use – CITES requirements will still apply.

You may find it is easier to get traditional medicines from shops or sellers within New Zealand – you won’t have to worry about CITES requirements if you get them from within New Zealand.

Step 1: Find out if your medicine contains a CITES species

Look for the ingredients on the package and check if they are protected under any of the CITES Appendices I, II or III. It doesn't matter how much of a CITES ingredient is in the medicine – any amount requires a CITES permit.

Read the appendix list in Chinese or English.

Our table below shows examples of CITES protected species commonly found in many traditional medicines. CITES protects over 38,000 species, so these are only a few of the most common examples.

This is not a full list of all species or medicines that need a permit.

Examples of common traditional or alternative medicine ingredients listed by CITES
Name Chinese names Species name Appendix Traditional medicine examples
American ginseng 西洋参
Panax quinquefolius II 西洋参
Costus or kuth (thistle) 木香 Saussurea costus I 保济丸
Dendrobium orchid 石斛 Dendrobium spp. I, II 石斛夜光丸
Orchid 天麻 Gastrodia elata II 天麻切片
Saiga antelope 赛加羚羊 Saiga tatarica II 羚羊感冒片
Musk deer 马麝
Moschus spp. I 万应胶囊
Golden chicken fern or woolly fern 狗脊
Cibotium barometz II 金毛狗脊丸
Desert-broomrape (plant) 肉苁蓉 Cistanche deserticola II 复方苁蓉胶囊
Seahorse 海马 Hippocampus spp. II 海马补肾丸
Bear Ursidae spp. I, II 熊胆眼药水
Pangolins 穿山甲 Manis spp. I 利咽灵片
Tortoise Testudinidae spp. I, II 龟苓膏

If you are unsure if your ingredient is listed or what appendix it’s under, contact the national CITES Authority in the country the medicines are coming from.

Find your local CITES Authority

Step 2: Get a permit if you need one

If your medicine contains a CITES species, you will likely need a permit to bring it into New Zealand. The permit you need will depend on what Appendix the ingredient is listed under. Step 1 will tell you which Appendix applies.

If you think the species contained in your medicine may have been farmed or artificially propagated, contact us for further advice.

Appendix I

Before you can ship or bring the medicine to New Zealand you will likely need:

  • an import permit from the CITES Authority in New Zealand (DOC), and
  • an export permit from the country the medicines are coming from.

Species in Appendix I are the most endangered and so their movement between countries is more restricted. For example, Costus root or Tiger.

The New Zealand permit application form is currently only available in English.

Appendix II

Before you can ship or bring the medicine to New Zealand you will likely need:

  • an export permit from the country the medicines are coming from

For example, if you want to bring sliced American Ginseng roots to New Zealand from China, you will need a CITES export permit from China. American Ginseng is an Appendix II species.

National CITES contacts:

Appendix III

If the medicine you are sending or bringing to New Zealand contains an Appendix III ingredient, check with us for the most up-to-date requirements.

Species in Appendix III are those where individual countries have asked for help to protect a particular species.

Our support for direct enquiries by email or phone is currently only available in English.

Contact us.

Step 3: What you need to do with your permit

Once you have obtained your CITES permit, make sure to follow all instructions given by the issuing CITES authority and any special conditions stated on the permit. This includes getting your permit validated by the customs authority of the departing country before your medicines come to New Zealand.

When your medicines arrive in New Zealand, the original CITES permits need to be presented to the New Zealand Customs Service or Ministry for Primary Industries border officials at the time of importation.

Photocopies of CITES permits are not acceptable.

If the item is imported via mail or cargo, we suggest including the original permit with the item.

What happens if you bring or ship medicines containing CITES species without a permit

If you bring traditional medicines containing CITES protected species into New Zealand and fail to present a valid CITES permit at the time of importation:

  • your medicine will be seized and disposed of, and
  • you could receive a fine or be prosecuted.

More on CITES and CITES protected species

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It is an international agreement that regulates and monitors imports and exports of endangered species. This is so their long-term survival in the wild is not threatened.

CITES monitors and regulates trade in endangered species through a system of permits and certificates. Documents are needed to cross borders with any product of a CITES species.

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