Corals and clams
Image: DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


“Are your goods all good?” That’s the message from DOC for travellers who are bringing wildlife items into New Zealand as the nation reopens its borders.

Date:  17 March 2022

New Zealand is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which helps protect some plants and animals from the threats of uncontrolled international trade (import/export). Over 38,000 species of plants and animals, including their parts and derivatives, are protected by CITES and New Zealand’s CITES responsibilities sit with DOC.

DOC’s Team Lead Border Operations, Clinton Turner, says the Pacific Islands and Australia are expected to be popular destinations for New Zealanders looking to travel internationally for a holiday and for people visiting family and friends.

“Some wildlife items found in the Pacific and Australia are protected by CITES,” he says.

“Examples of CITES-protected items include corals, some seashells, marine turtle shells and items made from whale bone. They can be found on beaches or for sale in markets and some shops. In some cases, they’re treasured items passed down through generations - such as traditional polished whale teeth.”

“Crocodile products such as jerky or bags/hats that use crocodile skin are also protected under CITES.”

Bringing CITES items into New Zealand requires CITES permits to be obtained before the items are imported – and Clinton Turner says it’s best for travellers to check the CITES rules and understand their obligations before they bring items into the country. Permits help ensure CITES items are legal and that the trade is sustainable.

Travellers who import CITES items without valid permits could be delayed on arrival, have their item seized, and face a possible infringement fine of up to $800.

“Many people don’t know CITES exists, or don’t know what is covered by CITES until they get stopped – so DOC is running an awareness campaign focused on education and understanding,” he says.

DOC aims to help people understand what is required to get goods made from wildlife protected by CITES in and out of the country legally.

“Many hundreds of CITES items are seized at the border every year and these seizures can be avoided by travellers having CITES permits for their items. Our call to all travellers is to make sure you check CITES requirements – particularly if you know you might be bringing back items made from plants and animals. We don’t want you to lose these items when you return to New Zealand, so make sure you check CITES requirements before you fly”.

Clinton Turner says the best source of CITES information is the DOC website.

“Our CITES awareness campaign is aimed at raising people’s understanding of CITES and it’s rules, so that New Zealand can play our part in the protection of vulnerable species from the threat of international trade.”


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