Customs confiscate tens of thousands of souvenirs every year: "Zoll und Reise" app and www.artenschut
The Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) are warning holidaymakers against bringing home illegal souvenirs made from protected animal and plant species. "Even 40 years after the entry into force of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) there are still many tourists who ignore the import bans which apply to more than just living animals and plants. Even importing parts of protected specimens and the products derived from them is not permitted," explained Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks today during her visit to the Customs Office at Düsseldorf airport.
"During the holiday season there is often a sharp increase in the number of items confiscated by customs officers as there are still a lot of tourists who want to bring souvenirs derived from protected animals and plants home from their trips, " reported Hans-Josef Haas, President of the Bundesfinanzdirektion West (Federal Finance Office West). In the last year alone, customs officers at German airports confiscated over 70,000 items during approximately 1000 seizures. In more than 90 percent of the cases, tourists had brought prohibited items in their luggage: live turtles, coral rock, ivory carvings, reptilian leather products, cobras in alcohol, orchids, cacti, sturgeon caviar and medicinal products with parts of protected animals and plants. Considering the fact that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted 40 years ago, the list of confiscated items is still far too long.
The most frequent excuse people use is: "I didn't know." In fact: "Many holidaymakers are not even aware that some goods made from protected species are only produced and animals are killed because of the continuous demand from tourists that creates the markets," said Federal Environment Minister Hendricks.
Today, reptilian leather can be purchased from special farms and cacti and orchids can be reproduced in garden centres. As this cannot be ascertained from looking at an individual belt or plant, the CITES convention specifically stipulates that approval is required for transportation across borders – even for farmed or artificially reproduced specimens. It is only once the competent authorities have given their approval that the trip may begin. This also applies to materials taken from beaches as, for example, it cannot be determined whether corals were deliberately broken off or simply washed ashore.
More information for travellers
Information on which species are protected and on the competent authorities in each country can also be found on the internet. The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) homepage contains information and links to the most important websites such as www.wisia.de, to the list of protected species and to www.cites.org where all authorities are listed. Additionally, alongside the websites www.zoll.de and www.artenschutz-online.de, there is a central service hotline especially for tourists, a brochure "Reisezeit – Ihr Weg durch den Zoll" (holiday season - getting through customs) and a smartphone app, all of which provide further information. The "Zoll und Reise" (customs and travel) app can be downloaded free of charge in the Apple App store and the Google Play Store. Hans-Josef Haas appealed to people to "save themselves hassle at customs on their return journey and use the customs app to inform themselves in time about the import regulations to be complied with."
For many years there have been discussions on how to stop the global loss of biodiversity. It is undisputed that many factors have contributed to biodiversity loss. In addition to the destruction of animal and plant habitats caused by humans, global illegal trade in endangered species has played a significant role. This was already recognised over 40 years ago in the 1970s by the international community when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted. In Germany, the Convention entered into force on 20 June 1976. The convention regulates the transboundary transport of endangered animals and plants and any parts or derivatives of these animals or plants – regardless of whether the transport is being carried out by businesses or private individuals. In addition to controlled legal trade, there is unfortunately still extensive illegal trade, which is often criminally motivated. There is still a lot of money to be made from many endangered species on the black market.