Olympic Travellers urged to Think Twice and avoid wildlife souvenirs

Thursday, July 10, 2008
(London, 9 July 2008) As sports fans gear up to visit the Beijing Olympics in just under a month, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging visitors to Think Twice about what souvenirs they bring back with them and to avoid wildlife products.
IFAW staff visiting markets in Beijing have discovered many souvenirs made from rare wild animals, including ivory carvings, musical instruments covered in reptile skin and traditional Chinese medicines containing endangered species. These were found in tourist and curio markets and IFAW is concerned that unwitting tourists may be buying these items as a memento of their holiday, unaware that this trade is pushing endangered animals to the brink of extinction.

Other items that can be found in markets across China include figurines and jewellery carved from elephant and hippo ivory; big cat fur hats; crocodile, lizard and snake skin handbags, belts and shoes; and turtle or tortoise shell accessories. Many of these items are made from endangered species, which are protected under international law 1…yet can easily be bought by foreign tourists. Even though some of these items can be sold legally in China, many tourists may be unaware that it is illegal to bring them back to the UK. Bringing souvenirs made from endangered wildlife, such as elephant ivory, back into the UK from abroad is a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Visitors are also urged to avoid other items on sale in China which have serious implications for both animal welfare and conservation. These include rhino horn, bear bile and tiger bone which can be used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and exotic meats such as pangolin, turtle and shark which may feature on restaurant menus. In addition, travellers are advised to stay away from China’s “wildlife parks” which feature cruel and sometimes dangerous shows involving performing captive bears, tigers and other animals and live feeding displays.

IFAW campaigner Nikki Kelly said: “We urge all visitors to the Beijing Olympics to Think Twice – don’t buy wildlife souvenirs. The impact of buying exotic animal products on wild populations is devastating, so we encourage all holidaymakers to have a wildlife friendly visit and opt for alternative holiday mementos that reflect China's rich, cultural diversity and may benefit local people, such as jade jewellery, rich fabric scarves, handicrafts, traditional paintings or pottery.”

Alternatives recommended by IFAW include stone and jade carvings, paintings, clothing, calligraphy, intricately woven fabrics, embroidery and iron work.

For further information, please visit: www.ifaw.org/uk/thinktwice.

Ends

Notes to Editors: 1 Wildlife is protected from over-exploitation through trade by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This is an agreement signed by more than 170 countries, regulating trade in about 5,000 species of animals and 25,000 species of plants.

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