A snake or scorpion preserved in brandy, animal skins or furs, as well as hunting trophies, corals, beautiful orchids or cacti, etc., are popular holiday souvenirs. At the very latest when passing through airport customs when entering Austria, returning travellers get a big surprise when their items are confiscated by the customs authorities due to the Endangered Species Act (Artenschutzgesetz). And when, several weeks later, a notice of criminal prosecution arrives from the district administrative authority, those glorious holiday memories are then firmly consigned to the past.
Many travellers are not aware that the import of such products is strictly prohibited. Likewise, the shipment of goods processed into souvenirs (figures made of ivory, wooden carvings, etc.) or products containing protected animals or plants or which are made from such animals or plants (e.g. caviar or products of traditional Chinese medicine) are also included.
The basis for action by the customs authorities is the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Convention), Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97, and the Federal Act on the Control of Trade in Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Artenhandelsgesetz). The above Convention protects over 3,000 animal and 30,000 plant types threatened by international trade. In Austria, the Convention has been in force since 1982. The penalties are substantial and comprise fines up to EUR 36,336 and custodial sentences of up to two years.
Details of what is and what is not allowed, as well as noteworthy information, may be found via the following links: