Ten things not to buy for Christmas
WWF says that by avoiding certain items and carefully sourcing your presents, you can avoid having a detrimental impact on the planet's natural resources and a guilt free holiday season.
"It's about being aware what you buy, and the impact it can have on species and the environment," says Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF's Global Species Programme.
"Some people have no idea what is legal or illegal. Our advice is based on threats to wildlife and the environment from unsustainable trade and consumer demand."
Beluga Caviar – If buying, buy carefully. While nothing is more evocative of luxury than black caviar, be aware that the sturgeon of the Caspian Sea could face extinction due to unsustainable and illegal plunder for their roe. Purchase caviar only from shops, only in sealed jars and, most importantly of all, make sure the jar or tin is sealed with a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) label.
Tigers/Tiger products – Don't buy. Owning a tiger as a pet, as well as tiger skin rugs and coats is gaining kudos in some elite circles. There are around 5,000 tigers left in the wild and populations are under immense pressure from habitat loss and poaching. All international trade of tiger products, whether used in traditional Asian medicine, as souvenirs or for “good luck” charms, is illegal.
Ivory products – Don't buy ivory trinkets. The illegal trade in elephant ivory is a continuing problem world-wide. If an elephant is poached for its ivory, chances are great that the ivory will end up in a market in Africa or Asia. From there, trade moves through illegal channels into other markets in North America and Europe. The continuing existence of illicit ivory markets, particularly in Africa and Asia, remains one of the greatest threats to elephants today, particularly in West and Central Africa.
Turtle shell products – Don't buy. Six of the seven species of marine turtles are endangered or critically endangered, and the outlook is increasingly grim. In the Pacific, leatherbacks are heading for extinction, fast, and in the Mediterranean, green turtle numbers have plummeted. All international trade in marine turtle products is banned, so avoid those hair clips, bracelets and souvenirs you may see on your travels.
Shahtoosh – Don't buy. Shahtoosh is a high fashion scarf woven from the hair of the Tibetan antelope. To obtain the wool, the antelope has to be killed. Though some traders may tell you the wool can be collected from bushes which the animal has brushed against, that's false. Due to poaching, the population of this species is dwindling and the species is on the endangered list. Buy a wool pashmina shawl instead.
Coral products – Buy very carefully. Slow growing and long living corals are collected for jewellery and ornamental purposes, but intensive collection threatens the reef . For example, red coral, a popular coral found only in the Mediterranean, and used for jewellery, has become locally extinct due to over-harvesting. If you plan to bring it home from overseas, make sure you find out if you need a CITES permit. If buying at home, ask the retailer if the coral was imported with the necessary CITES permit.
Crocodile skin and snake skin products – Buy carefully. If you like those fancy cowboy boots or little evening bag, be aware that some native wild populations of crocodiles and snakes are in dire straits and critically endangered. While it's likely your belt, bag or shoes comes from captive bred populations, not wild ones, check that your product has a CITES permit before you part with your cash.
Cod – Buy carefully. Cod stocks have plummeted and are on the verge of collapse in the North Sea, Irish Sea and waters west of Scotland. There is also a huge problem with illegally caught cod. Only the stocks around Iceland and the Barents Sea are healthy and relatively well managed. Enquire at your local supermarket or retailer about the source and legality of cod for sale.
Cactus – Buy carefully. The prickly plant trade may be popular, but watch out. There is a flourishing illegal trade which is wiping out native populations, particularly from Mexico. Some species are totally banned from international trade and some require an import permit. Whilst the great majority of cacti for sale have been artificially grown in nurseries and are legal, cacti that are imported into a country do require a permit. So, if in doubt, check the paperwork!
Electrical items – Buy smart. If buying large electrical goods like stereos and televisions buy ones that can be turned off and do not just sit on standby. Often they use as much as 40 percent of their electricity in standby mode. See what else you can do to save energy and tackle climate change, one of the most pervasive threats to species and life on earth by visiting http://www.panda.org/powerswitch
For further information:
Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Press Officer
Tel: +41 22 364 9554
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: + 41 79 236 12 09
NOTE: CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.