Cameraleather - Colors and materials

"Wild" animal leathers as a camera covering
What the camera owner needs to know

Leica M3 in black lizard
Customers in the U.S. can purchase exotic leathers that have been harvested legally under U.S. and/or International law. Here in the U.S. this trade is supervised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and in some cases, individual State wildlife agencies.

State and Federal laws follow the protocols of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the "CITES" treaty of 1975. Among the goals of CITES are two which may seem contradictory. First, it seeks to protect species whose survival is at stake, by banning or severely limiting their trade. Alternately, it promotes the wild culling of species with sustainable numbers, to help keep habitats intact and of local value in their natural state. All of our reptile skin is imported to the U.S.under permit and in compliance with CITES.

Only some reptile skin we have offered are CITES species, mainly lizard and cobra. But even non-CITES reptile leather is "wild" and we can't export it without a permit from the USFWS. We regret at this time we can't export any wild animal products to customers outside the U.S.

Customers in the U.S. can purchase our full range of leathers without any Federal or State permits, with the exception of California residents, who cannot purchase genuine cobra or python leather.

Traveling with, selling, or buying an exotic-clad camera internationally

We make no claim here to convey any legal advice or knowledge, or to recite any laws of any country or legal jurisdiction. What we can offer is basic common sense about any camera with any kind of exotic leather on it. It doesn't matter if you bought from us, someone else, or did the work yourself from a whole skin. This also applies to camera cases and straps. And for that matter, the Customs officer will be looking at your shoes, belt, wallet, handbag, and iPhone cover too!

Although we strongly recommend you travel with a camera that has no exotic leather, or even anything that looks exotic, there are subtle differences within reptile species that may get you waved through, or detained for some time, at the customs inspection checkpoint. For example, the "Karung" snake (Achrocordus Javanicus) is not a CITES species. Leica has used it on their Special Edition cameras since CITES was enacted, and these cameras should travel unhindered. However, Karung snake is often mistaken for lizard, and trade in all major lizard species is restricted by CITES. Similarly, there are a number of common Asian water and Sea Snakes with no restrictions, but which may appear like Cobra skin, which requires a CITES permit.

When traveling internationally, bring a camera with a synthetic covering, or one made from cow, goat or pig leather. Never carry a camera with exotic skin.

Even within this group, avoid any covering with a "fake" exotic or reptile embossing, some of which are quite convincing and may attract the attention of a customs or wildlife officer.

If you intend to buy or sell internationally, any camera with an exotic covering already applied, you should determine the exact species of skin, and if it's a listed CITES species. Inquire ahead of time of the Customs Authorities in both countries. Follow all restrictions and get required permits, even for non-CITES exotic leather. If this seems cumbersome, it is. The best approach:

So you absolutely must have that Leica you see at an online auction, and it's got a real lizard covering, from an overseas seller. OK, just tell the seller to strip off the lizard covering prior to shipping. Ask to see a photo of it stripped before they ship!

Or, you are on a business trip to Singapore and you absolutely must have that Leica with the real lizard covering you saw at that fabulous shop. It will hurt to strip off the leather before your flight leaves, but not nearly as much as if your camera gets seized by the USFWS at JFK. Just sayin' . . . . !

If you are buying or selling a camera with exotic leather on it, do not transact outside your home country. Never send it overseas for repair.

Unless you and your transacting partner fulfill all requirements of the countries of export and import, do not export or import a camera with exotic leather applied!