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Oprah-endorsed diet aid creates headache for DoC

18th December 2006

Oprah-endorsed diet aid creates headache for DoC

A plant touted by Oprah as a dieting aid is creating a headache for the Department of Conservation (DoC).

Hoodia is a cactus-like plant native to the Namib Desert in Africa, and is widely believed to be an appetite suppressant. It is also a protected species, and as it gains popularity, DoC is seeing an increasing amount of products containing Hoodia entering New Zealand without the required certification.

Hoodia is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments to protect endangered plants and animals. DoC has managed CITES here since New Zealand became a member in 1989.

Hoodia can only be imported into New Zealand with CITES certification.

DoC CITES Officer, Jane Denton, says many people are not aware that Hoodia is a protected species.

"There is often a belief that natural or plant based products are harmless, however, more and more we are seeing the harm that trade can have on endangered species," she said.

Ms Denton said much of the Hoodia intercepted at the border has been bought over the internet.

Products containing Hoodia that are not CITES certified will be confiscated at New Zealand's borders. Companies found importing Hoodia products are liable for fines up to $100,000, and individuals can be fined $50,000 or imprisoned for up to three years.

More information on CITES can be found at www.doc.govt.nz , or www.cites.org .

ENDS


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