In many tourist locations, live animals and plants, as well as their derivatives, are sold as holiday souvenirs. But just because items are openly on sale in local markets doesn’t automatically mean it’s legal to buy them and take them home.

Wilaw Khasawong –

Illustration : items manufactured from exotic reptile leather

If you wish to take such items home, you will need to, depending on the Appendix in which the species is listed, obtain a CITES export permit issued by the country of origin (see addresses of the CITES Management Authorities worldwide) and an import permit issued by the Belgian Management Authority or that of the European Union country that you are returning to.

You have to apply for these permits via the Belgian CITES database (if applicable) BEFORE returning to Belgium or to the European Union. It is therefore always preferable to check with the relevant authorities whether it is legal to bring back certain products derived from wild species.

If you are in any doubt, don’t buy such souvenirs! If you illegally import products derived from protected animal or plant species, the items may be seized by customs and you may be liable to a fine.

The table below provides a non-exhaustive list of examples of souvenirs.

For more information, consult the “A future for your souvenir” brochure as well as the examples in the WWF guide of the souvenirs most frequently offered to tourists.

Table : Examples of souvenirs sold to tourists.
Just because they are freely sold in markets doesn’t make them legal!
Here is a reminder to help you identify them:

Souvenirs to be avoided!
- Cat skins: Coats and bags made from leopard, snow leopard, clouded leopard, tiger, lion, puma, jaguar, ocelot or cheetah skins
- Carvings made from elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn: statuettes, figurines, seals, bracelets, necklaces, chess pieces, chopsticks and whole tusks
- Crocodile, tiger and bear skulls
- Carvings made from whale bone
- Products made from sea turtle shells (“Bekko”) such as jewellery, dishes, spectacles, hair clips, combs
- Shahtoosh wool: 90% of Tibetan antelopes have been wiped out for the wool used to produce scarves and mufflers
- Guitars and luxury accessories made from Rio rosewood
Souvenirs that require an import and export permit
- Coats and blankets made from vicuña or guanaco wool
- Reptile skins: handbags, briefcases, belts, shoes and wallets made from snake, lizard or crocodile leather *
- Carvings made from hippopotamus or walrus teeth
- Jewellery made from coral: all black, blue or hard corals; jewellery made from red corals from Japan and China also require documents (import notification)
- Shellfish and giant clams, queen conches and their flesh 
- Teeth, jaws and fins of certain sharks
- Key rings containing seahorses
- Wild bird feathers or other objects made from them
- Stuffed animals: birds, crocodiles (including teeth), monitors, snakes, etc.
- Snake wine: alcohol in which specimens of protected species, such as snakes and lizards, are immersed. It is necessary to find out the species in the bottle!
CITES souvenirs permitted without CITES documents
- up to 125 g of sturgeon caviar per person in containers that are individually marked: sealed with CITES labels, if more: permits required
- up to three rainsticks (Cactaceae spp.) per person
- up to four products produced from crocodiles per person (bags, belts, etc.) with the exception of meat and hunting trophies
- up to three queen conch (Strombus gigas) shells per person
- up to three giant clam (Tridacnidae spp.) shells per person, where each specimen may be an intact shell or two matching halves, not exceeding 3 kg in total.
- up to four dried seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) per person
- specimens of agarwood (Aquilaria spp. and Gyrinops spp.) — up to 1 kg woodchips, 24 ml oil, and two sets of beads or prayer beads (or two necklaces or bracelets) per person