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Customs & Excise

This important collection highlights the dangers of the illegal trade in endangered species.

The Customs & Excise collection includes a wide variety of seized imported items, which illustrate the souvenir trade in endangered species worldwide. It is an important collection which is used to teach people about the illegality of trade, the plight of endangered species, the role of HM Customs & Excise and the background to CITES legislation.

CITES is The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and the legislation was drawn up with the aim of assisting in the conservation of rare animals and plants.

HM Customs & Excise are responsible for enforcing the import restrictions in Britain. As part of their duties, Customs Officers at ports and airports check passengers' baggage and examine freight consignments to ensure that illegal importations are not being made. A lot of the people found by Customs Officers to be importing illegal wildlife souvenirs don’t realise that they are breaking the law. They also haven’t thought of the effects of the trade on the endangered species. HM Customs & Excise work closely with the WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature) to try and raise public awareness and put a stop to the trade.

The collection includes ivory 'products' ranging from hippo teeth to carved elephant tusks, necklaces and envelope knives. There are also skins of leopard and serval, green and hawksbill turtles and Nile and saltwater crocodile mounts. As well as ornaments there are accessories made from animals skins. These include watchstraps, handbags and even a briefcase.