British tourists overseas could be contributing to the degradation of the natural world, a new study from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has revealed.
The animal charity is warning of the impact on animal habitats when live creatures, or products fashioned from their skins or bodies, are purchased as novelty souvenirs.
Over 160,000 artefacts described as ‘illegal wildlife products’ were brought into the UK by British travellers last year, according to figures released by customs officials.
These included 44 snake and lizard products such as shoes or handbags, quite apart from over 900 living reptiles.
Although some of the goods clearly entail animal cruelty, such as Chinese medicines with traces of tiger, others such as conch shells or plant bulbs seem at first glance more innocuous.
But removing any endangered species from their natural environment is irresponsible tourism, said Heather Sohl, wildlife trade officer at WWF.
Protecting those species requires public input including refusing to buy these products in the first instance, and scrupulously respecting export guidelines.