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What is a protected plant and animal species?

While travelling, you might come across certain souvenirs made from protected plant and animal species. Before purchasing them, it is best to check the rules on bringing them to Belgium.

  • What is a protected plant or animal species (CITES)?

    CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, a treaty regulating the international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora.

  • How do I know if a plant or animal species is in danger of extinction?

    All specimens* (*animal and plant species, dead or alive, including parts or derivatives thereof) that are in danger of extinction and therefore need to be protected, are listed in one of the Annexes (A, B, C or D) of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996.

  • What measures are in force for carrying protected plant and animal species?

    The most important measures can be found in:

  • Which specimens of animal or plant species am I not allowed, under no circumstances, to bring back from a third country in my luggage?

    Some species are protected to such an extent that it is forbidden to bring them in from a third country. Some examples:

    • skins and clothing from felines: coats and bags made of leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, tigers, lions, pumas, jaguars, ocelots or cheetahs;

    • ivory: carvings made of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn: statues, figurines, seals, bracelets, necklaces, chess pieces, chopsticks and complete tusks;

    • tortoise shield products (‘Bekko’): jewels, plates, spectacles, hair clips, combs;

    • shawls made from wool of Tibetan antelopes (Shahtoosh wool);

    • skulls of crocodiles, tigers, bears;

    • whale bone carvings;

    • guitars and luxury articles of Rio rosewood.

  • Are there specimens of animal or plant species that I am allowed to bring back from a third country in my luggage?

    Depending on the type of specimen, you are allowed to bring it back from a third country in your luggage with or without permit.

  • With permit

    Certain souvenirs can be taken home provided that you have a CITES export permit (issued by the country of origin) AND a CITES import permit issued by the Belgian Management Authority* : 

    • reptile skins: handbags, briefcases, belts, shoes and wallets made from snake, lizard or crocodile leather;

    • coral and jewellery made from coral: all black, blue or hard corals; jewellery made from red corals from Japan and China also require documents;

    • certain shellfish and giant clams, queen conches and their flesh;

    • key rings containing seahorses;

    • Coats and blankets of vicuña or guanaco wool;

    • Hippopotamus and walrus teeth carvings…

    • Teeth, jaws and fins of certain sharks;

    • Feathers or other objects of wild birds’ feathers;

    • stuffed animals: birds, crocodiles (including teeth), monitors, snakes;

    • snake wine: alcohol in which specimens of protected species, such as snakes and lizards, are immersed. It is necessary to inquire about the species in the bottle!

    *Please visit the website of the Belgian Management Authority, being the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Security and Environment: dieren-en-planten/dieren/wat-cites. 

  • Without permit

    Some souvenirs can be taken home without permits provided that the quantity falls within the indicated range :

    • Rainsticks of cactaceae, up to three per person;

    • Some specific shellfish:

      • up to three conch shells (Strombus gigas) per person ;

      • up to three giant clam shells (Tridacnidae) per person, where each specimen may be an intact shell or two matching halves, not exceeding 3 kg in total ;

    • Up to 125 gr of sturgeon caviar per person in containers that are individually marked: sealed with CITES labels. If more: permits required;

    • Up to four dead, worked specimens of crocodile leather (Crocodylia spp) such as bags, belts …, with the exception of meat and hunting trophies ; 

    • Up to four dead, dried seahorses (Hippocampus spp) per person ; 

    •  Specimens of agarwood (Aquilaria spp. and Gyrinops spp.): per person:
               - up to 1 kg woodchips,
               - 24 ml oil,
               - and two sets of beads or prayer beads (or two necklaces or bracelets) per person.

  • What is the Belgian CITES Management Authority?

    The Belgian CITES Management Authority is the CITES Unit of the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment.
    Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment DG Environment (DG5) – CITES Unit
    Viktor Hortaplein 40 PO box 10
    1060 Brussels
    Tel: +32 2 524 97 97

  • Who is in charge of the supervision of the specimens and the required permits and certificates for carrying protected plant and animal species?

    If you enter the European Union from a third country, your luggage can be checked at all times, for instance by Customs at the airport. If you carry a CITES specimen in your luggage, you need to provide the required documents to the Customs authorities.

  • Do I need a permit if certain specimens of animal or plant species are personal property and I bring them back from a third country?

    Yes, the rules also apply to this case. Depending on the situation, you need to have the required certificates. Some examples:

    • personal ownership certificate;

    • travelling exhibition certificate;

    • musical instrument certificate.

  • Where and how can I ask for a permit, notification or certificate for carrying protected plant and animal species?

    All documents can be requested online through the CITES Database.

    More information on protected plant and animal species and on the CITES legislation can be found on the website of the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Security and Environment. You can also contact the CITES Unit directly:
    Tel: +32 2 524 97 97

  • Is there any penalty for not respecting the regulations with regard to CITES?

    Any violation of the regulations is punishable with a fine and/or imprisonment depending on the gravity of the infringement. In addition, your specimen can be seized.