IMPACT: When Animals Become Souvenirs

Travel souvenirs are important to a lot of people, because not only does it remind them of the places they have been, but it is also something that adds to the décor of their homes. Maybe it is a piece of decorative coral, or a uniquely painted shell, or even an ivory sculpture. But, before you buy any item on your adventure, think about not only where it came from, but also how it came to be. Choosing not to buy souvenirs made from animals not only helps endangered species, but it also prevents animals from suffering to make one-of-a-kind trinkets and other goods. The steps an animal goes through to become a souvenir are not only traumatizing and torturing, but often fatal.

The illegal wildlife trade is worth billions of dollars, and many times consumers don’t realize that products they are buying are not only illegal, but have also caused harm to animals. Some of the most popular items people buy are items made from ivory. At least 33,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory; according to Responsible Travel, that is about one in every 12 elephants! Items made with ivory are often sold in Africa and Asia and include ivory sculptures, carvings, jewelry, and chopsticks.  Elephant poachers often hunt at night and spear the innocent elephants to kill them for their tusks. As explained by the Dodo, the ivory tusks are then sold to the person who will pay them the most money. Many times, the hunters will shoot or stone a large group of elephants when they gather at the water holes, according to Other products are made from elephant skin and feet, and some ivory products are made from animals like walruses and hippopotami.

Other popular items sold in souvenir shops are turtle and tortoise shells. The shell is the armor of the animal, and these animals are killed to turn their shells into combs, jewelry, sunglasses frames and musical instruments. Turtles are innocently killed just for their shells. Some countries sell items made from turtle skin and the Leatherback Turtle is hunted for its oil. As stated in a report by Michigan State University, between 1970 and 1989, Japan imported 1.5 million pounds of shells, which is equivalent to about 700,000 dead turtles. Other reptiles are skinned alive, such as snakes, crocodiles and lizards, to make wallets, bags and belts.

Coral and seashells are often made into decorative items and jewelry. Not many people realize, states, that corals are animals and over 20 percent of coral reefs worldwide have been lost. When you buy coral souvenirs, you are contributing to the destruction of the world’s ocean ecosystems. The animals suffer when simply taken out of the water, after which they suffer more and then die. Deep water trawling, dynamite fishing and cyanide poisoning are also destroying marine life.

Big cats are more often seen in souvenir shops than in the wild. Tigers, jaguars and leopards are hunted for their skins, which are processed into coats, belts and hats. Their paws, teeth and claws are made into necklaces, and some of the animals are even killed to make medicines, according to The big cats are hunted with guns or spears or sometimes they are captured to be sold to the highest bidder. The big cats are captured and transported in grueling conditions and often change hands several times before being killed for their parts.

Many other animals are hunted every day to be turned into trinkets and, not only are they killed, but they suffer intensely. Usually, only a small portion of the animal is used, and this wildlife trade is causing many animal species to become endangered or extinct. As a consumer, you should never buy these souvenirs, because the souvenir trade is impacting these animals by causing suffering and death, as well as declining animal populations worldwide. If people stop buying these souvenirs, people will stop selling them and subsequently end the animal suffering. 



*All photos are used with permission



Please see ISF’s Terms of Use.


ISF depends on your support to continue to provide education and programs in support of Creatures, the Environment and Youth. Please consider donating today.