Olympic Buyers Beware Restricted Souvenirs


U.S. citizens traveling to China for the Olympic Games are reminded that U.S. wildlife laws and international treaties limit the types of items they can buy and bring home.

"Just because you find something for sale overseas doesn't mean you can import it," said Benito Perez, chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. "Some products made from wildlife are illegal to import while others may require permits.

"By making informed choices, travelers can support conservation and avoid having their souvenirs confiscated at the airport," Perez said.

The United States, China, and most other countries protect their native animals and plants under national laws and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Signed by more than 160 nations, this treaty supports sustainable trade in wildlife and plants while safeguarding endangered species. In many cases, U.S. laws provide even stronger protections.

The United States, for example, generally prohibits the importation of elephant ivory. Goods subject to seizure would include ivory carvings, jewelry, and figurines as well as raw and carved tusks.

Products made from sea turtle (such as tortoiseshell jewelry and items with tortoiseshell inlay) are prohibited as are big cat skins and furs.

Restricted goods also include traditional medicines made from or parts of tiger, rhinoceros, leopard, Asiatic black bear, musk deer, pangolin, and seahorse.

"CITES regulates trade worldwide in more than 30,000 different animal and plant species," Perez said. "Travelers need to ask questions and check trade restrictions before they buy."

Travelers returning to the United States must indicate on their Customs declaration form whether they are bringing back any wildlife or wildlife products acquired abroad. Additional requirements apply if the species is protected under CITES or is a live animal or if they are importing eight or more of any item.

More information about U.S. requirements for wildlife imports can be found under the "International Travelers" and "Importers/Exporters" tabs on the Office of Law Enforcement's Web site at http://www.fws.gov/le/ or by contacting a Service wildlife inspection office (http://www.fws.gov/le/ImpExp/inspectors.htm).

Download Center

  • Waste Management in 2021: Accelerate Your Success with Technology

    Join waste management experts on February 23rd for a live best practice session webinar. You’ll learn how to take your waste program to the next level with visual location, barcoding, and mobility. Register now.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Reserve your copy of the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get a detailed, fact-based comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • Industry Safe