Needless to say, you don’t want to engage in importation of endangered species of any kind. You can pick up a pamphlet from the US Customs Service as to which species are currently on the endangered list and thus steer away from dealing in them.
On the other hand, many other species products that you may have thought as being perfectly fine to import still may be so, but provided that you really know what you are buying.
Please note, all products that fall into category of species of any kind must be properly labeled on the invoice with a Latin term.
That includes all sea shells and bone products. Thus if you’re importing wooden decorative boxes inlaid with some kind of sea shells, your invoice better shows the exact Latin name for the species of sea shells used in the inlay. Same goes for brass bangles inlaid with bone from India, a snake skin covered wooden earrings from Indonesia, feather dusters from Philippines etc.
In short, you better know your Latin terminology and if you’re not certain that such and such bone inlay or snake skin earring is not the species you think it is, then you better not buy it and attempt to import it, no matter how much money you feel you could be eventually making on the product selling it wholesale or retail to your customers. In Indonesia they may tell you, that the snake skin you’re looking at to buy is that of a garden snake from Bali but in fact it may be a snake skin of an endangered species from Timor or another island.
If your goods will not have the proper Latin terms attached, chances are that the Customs will forward your shipment to the Fish and Wildlife Department for inspection and proper classification. Often you may be able to get away with them attaching a quick term to your invoice and nothing will stop you from receiving your goods. Another time, however, the Fish and Wildlife Department may want to take a closer look at your goods and not only that you will experience a delay in receiving your goods, you could also incur additional inspection and classification charges, thus increasing your product landed cost. But then you could be confronted also with the worst: the customs will cease your shipment and in some instances could even slap you with a penalty on top of that. This way you will have a triple-loss, you’ll be out of money you had invested in product purchase, shipping costs, plus cost of the penalty.