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New Guide Helps Travelers Avoid Illegal Wildlife Souvenirs on Caribbean Visits

Washington - As the fall cruise season gets under way, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TRAFFIC today released a guide to help Caribbean travelers avoid buying illegal souvenirs made from endangered species.

Many wildlife products sold overseas cannot be brought into the United States or require permits to do so. In the Caribbean, these include sea turtle products, certain types of coral, spotted cat furs and live birds. More than 4 million Americans visit the Caribbean each year and spend an average of $2,362 each while there.

"Unsustainable trade is wiping out some of the very wildlife and habitat that travelers go to the Caribbean to enjoy. Yet Americans unwittingly load their suitcases with contraband every day while on vacation and illegally bring it home," said Leigh Henry of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of World Wildlife Fund and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. "We're distributing this guide because we think consumers will do the right thing if they know the true cost of the wildlife souvenirs they see for sale."

Every year, U.S. law enforcement officials seize thousands of illegal items from travelers returning from vacation and sometimes impose fines on violators. Many travelers say they had no idea about such rules.

"Buyer Beware," published jointly by TRAFFIC and the Fish and Wildlife Service, will be distributed free to travelers at border crossings and travel agencies and will be made available to cruise lines, visitors bureaus and other traveler services. The brochure is available in both English and Spanish and includes a tear-off card for travelers to take with them listing products to avoid.

Products to avoid in the Caribbean include:

  • all sea turtle products, including the shells and products made from the skins
  • all spotted cat skin products
  • certain leather products, including some made from caiman, crocodiles, lizards and snakes
  • most live birds, including many parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches
  • some wild bird feathers, mounted birds, skins and some skin products
  • live monkeys
  • some corals and coral products
  • certain orchids, cacti and cycads