Vacation buyers beware of banned belts, beluga

Robert Szostek
U.S. European Command

Many vacation souvenirs can get servicemembers in trouble if foreign or
U.S. customs authorities catch them with banned items. It is a crime to
take many seemingly innocuous natural products across international
borders. Customs can confiscate the goods and fine a person. But, worst
of all is that buying these products adds to the risk of animals and
plants dying out completely.

People vacationing abroad should never buy live animals such as baby
tortoises, turtles or birds or live plants such as cacti and orchids.
Beluga caviar is another restricted item as are traditional medicines
containing ingredients such as tiger bone or rhinoceros horn.

Vacationers should also avoid artifacts made from hides, shells,
feathers or teeth. “Souvenirs made of tortoise shell, coral, ivory and
skins may be openly sold in many countries but they are still illegal,”
said Bill Johnson, director of the European Command’s Customs and
Border Clearance Agency. Ivory and whale teeth decorations, known as
scrimshaw and netsuke, are banned.

Reptile skins are often used in watchbands, handbags, belts, wallets
and shoes. Most crocodile, lizard, snake, and all sea turtle products
are prohibited too.

For more information on endangered species issues, visit and for more travel
information, visit