Skip main navigation
Close menu

Be Informed, Buy Informed.

As a partner with the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, Zoo New England joins a powerful coalition of more than 70 nonprofit organizations, companies and AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos working together to combat the illegal trade of wildlife.

You can be part of the solution.

From climate change to habitat loss, animals around the world are suffering steep population declines. But in the last decade, illegal poaching has been pushing endangered animals to the brink of extinction. We as consumers can make informed purchasing choices that can change the course of wildlife trafficking. Put simply: if we don't buy it, they'll stop selling it. Read below to learn how you can make a difference.

The Problem

Wild animals are being killed, often for just a single body part, to meet consumer demand for souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, medicine, and other household items. An assessment from the Zoological Society of London and the World Wildlife Fund reports that global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970. It further suggests if the trend continues that by 2020 the decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates.

The United States continues to help fuel demand for the illegal killing of endangered species by providing one of the world’s largest markets for ivory, rhino horn, tiger and other wildlife skins and parts. The government alone can’t shut down illegal trafficking in the U.S.  We must band together to stop consumer demand and cut off supply chains and market access for illegal wildlife products.

The Solution

Around the world, you’ll find wildlife and plant products for sale—as jewelry, clothes, pets, souvenirs and more. But just because something is for sale doesn’t mean it’s legal to take home. Some of these products may be made from protected animals or plants and could be illegal to export or import. Other wildlife products may require permits before you can bring them home to the United States.

By making informed choices, you can avoid having your souvenir confiscated or paying a fine, and more importantly, support wildlife conservation around the world. Here's how you can make a difference:

Top 5 Products to Never Buy  

  • Ivory: raw or carved: Avoid raw or carved ivory from the teeth or tusks of elephants, whales, walruses, and narwhals.  Don't purchase ivory carved into jewelry, carvings, figurines, chopsticks, or hair clips.
  • Tiger Products: Avoid products from tigers used in traditional medicine, sold as furs, or as souvenirs or “good luck” charms.
  • Rhino Products: Avoid products from rhinos used in traditional medicine, jewelry, or souvenirs.
  • All Sea Turtle Products: Avoid jewelry, hair combs and sunglass frames made from sea turtle shell.  Don't buy sea turtle meat, soup, eggs, facial creams, shells, leathers, boots, handbags, and other goods made from sea turtle skin.
  • Medicinals: Avoid traditional medicines made from rhino, tiger, leopard, Asiatic black bear, or musk deer.

Top 5 Products to Avoid or Question

  • Reptile Leather Products: Many garments including belts, handbags, watchbands, and shoes are made from non-endangered species and are ok to purchase. However, certain leather products may contain caiman, crocodiles, lizards and snakes. Check that your product has a CITES permit before purchasing.
  • Coral and Shells: Many countries limit the collection, sale, and export of live coral and coral products. If you want to purchase coral as a souvenir, jewelry, or aquarium decoration, find out if you need a CITES permit to bring it back to the U.S.  Permits may also be required to bring back queen conch shells from many Caribbean countries.
  • Wild Bird Feathers: Most wild bird feathers require permits, including from parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches.
  • Furs: Beware when purchasing furs while traveling abroad. Most of the world’s wild cats are protected and you can't import skins or items made using the fur of these protected animals.
  • Wools: Shahtoosh shawls are woven with the down hair of the protected Tibetan antelope. However, travelers may import clothing made from vicuna (a South American mammal) with a permit from the country of purchase.

Ask Before You Buy

  • What is this product made of?
  • Where did this product come from?

And if traveling outside of the U.S.:

  • Does the country I’m visiting allow the sale and export of this product?
  • Do I need permits or other documents from this country or the United States to bring this item home?

Information sourced from the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance