Wed, Dec 22, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Leave turtles, tigers off Christmas lists, WWF tells shoppers

AFP , GENEVA

Luxury gifts such as turtle shell hair clips, ivory bracelets or even a pet tiger should be crossed off Christmas lists to give the environment some festive cheer, the conservation group WWF said yesterday.

It highlighted 10 items that should either be left on the shelf or purchased with caution, urging present-buyers to check the label of environmentally sensitive products to ensure, for example, that the reptile behind a pair of snake skin cowboy boots was bred on a farm rather than in the wild.

"It's about being aware what you buy, and the impact it can have on species and the environment," said Susan Lieberman, the director of WWF's global species program.

Among the items that Father Christmas should avoid this year are any tiger products because, with only 5,000 of the striped cats left in the wild, all international trade of tiger goods is illegal.

"Owning a tiger as a pet, as well as tiger skin rugs and coats is gaining kudos in some elite circles," WWF noted in a statement released from its headquarters in Gland, Switzerland.

Ivory goods are also a big no as conservationists struggle to clamp down on elephant poaching.

"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," warned the environmental group.

In addition, WWF urged the beauty conscious to resist turtle shell hair clips and bracelets, noting that six out of the seven species of marine turtles are either endangered or critically endangered.

All international trade in the animal is banned.

It also black-listed Shahtoosh -- a high fashion scarf woven from the hair of the endangered Tibetan antelope, which has to be killed as a result.

"Though some traders may tell you the wool can be collected from bushes which the animal has brushed against, that's false," the group said, suggesting that scarf-lovers opt for a pashmina shawl instead.

Anyone planning to buy coral jewellery or crocodile and snake skin accessories as a gift should make sure they are certified with a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) label.

Red coral found only in the Mediterranean has become locally extinct due to over-harvesting, while the wild populations of crocodiles and snakes are at critical risk, WWF noted.

Similarly black caviar, the epitome of luxury food, should only be bought from shops and only in sealed jars that carry a CITES label, the group said.

Illegal plundering of fish eggs in the Caspian Sea has put the sturgeon that make caviar at risk of extinction. Also facing tough times due to illicit fishing are cod in the North Sea, Irish Sea and waters west of Scotland.

Consumers should only buy the fish this Christmas if it was caught around Iceland and the Barents Sea, where stocks remain healthy, WWF instructed.

The group also sounded a warning about giving a cactus as a present because a flourishing illegal trade, particularly in Mexico, is wiping out the prickly plant. Cacti grown in a nursery are safe but people should keep their eyes open for any that have been imported.

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