One of my goals in writing Animal Investigators was to make the public more aware about what they could do to help wildlife in their every day life.
There are three simple things you can do:
1First, don’t buy any exotic animal products like ivory carvings or reptile leather handbags.
2Second, don’t buy exotic pets. While captive-bred pets are legal, many wild-caught birds and reptiles are passed off as captive bred. Wild caught animals not only remove the animal from the ecosystem and destroy habitat during the collection process, which threatens the species’ future sustainability, but also many wild caught animals can’t survive the trip. Some experts suggest that for every one smuggled wild caught bird sold in US or European markets, nine others probably died in transit.
3The third thing you can do is lend your support to those working on these issues. You can call your US or state senator or congressman to support wildlife law enforcement budgets and animal trade legislation. This can include support for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) or specific pieces of legislation, such as the Bear Protection Act. You can also support the various organizations that work on wildlife trade issues. A list of such organization is included below. Please note, this list is not comprehensive and in no particular order. If you'd like to be included in this list, please contact me with information.
The following provides a list of common illegally-traded wildlife products to avoid. It is adapted from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement’s Tips for Travelers. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide. Before buying any wildlife product, consumers should consider: what the product is made of, where it came from, and what documentation is required.
Products to avoid include:
- Sea turtle products. All species of sea turtles are endangered and their international trade is prohibited. Products to avoid include: sea turtle meat, soup, eggs, facial creams, shells, leather goods (like shoes, belts or purses) made from sea turtle skin, and tortoise shell jewelry and curios.
- Ivory. The United States generally prohibits the importation of elephant ivory. Avoid raw ivory and jewelry and carvings made from elephant tusks. Also avoid raw or carved ivory from the teeth or tusks of whales, walruses, narwhals, and seals.
- Furs. Avoid furs from tigers, most spotted cats like jaguars and leopards, seals, polar bears, and sea otters. This includes skins and items made from or trimmed with these furs.
- Wildlife wools. Avoid products, like shawls, made from shaht oosh, the hair of the rare Tibetan chiru antelope. Clothing made from vicuna, a llama-like mammal from South America, is allowed with a permit and label that carries the Vicuna Convention logo.
- Primates. Most species are protected. Avoid live monkeys and apes as pets. Also avoid their meat, fur or curios.
- Live birds. Many pet birds are caught in the wild, which depletes their populations and destroys their habitats. Avoid wild birds as pets, especially species that are often wild-caught like parrots, macaws, cockatoos, and finches.
- Feathers and bird parts. Avoid wild bird feathers or products made with them, mounted birds and nests.
- Reptiles and products. Trade in live reptiles for both pets and leather goods are significant even though many species are protected. Virtually all, even healthy ones, also carry the Salmonella bacteria which does not cause problems in the reptile but can hurt humans. Most pet reptiles are wild-caught, which depletes populations and destroys habitats. Avoid protected snakes, turtles, caiman, crocodiles, and lizards as pets and also avoid their leather products.=2 0
- Corals and shells. Many countries limit the collection, sale, and export of live coral and coral products. Avoid coral products like souvenirs, jewelry and aquarium decorations.
- Asian traditional medicines. Avoid products made with ingredients from rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, saiga antelope, musk deer, and bear.
- Caviar. The world’s sturgeon species are increasingly at risk and trade is regulated. Since 2007, individuals can only import 125 grams (about four ounces) without a permit. Caviar of some sturgeon species is completely prohibited. There is also much fraudulently labeled caviar.20
- Fish and shellfish. Use caution when buying fish for an aquarium. Consider the source. Many aquarium fish species are harvested in ways that threaten coral ecosystems.