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SPCA Issues Warning Over Tortoise Souvenirs

09 June 2015

UK - The Scottish SPCA is appealing to people travelling abroad this summer not to be tempted by local street traders selling live tortoises after a Tunisian tortoise was handed into one of the charity's rescue centres.

It is understood a tourist from Glasgow purchased the creature from a street trader while on holiday.

Last year the SPCA seized four Tunisian tortoises believed to have been brought into Scotland illegally and an undercover inspector has warned anyone doing so they could be risking the animal's life as well as committing an offence.

The inspector with our Special Investigations Unit said: "The tortoise we recently took in was the sole survivor of three brought back to Scotland. We believe it had been kept in a bath full of water, which is the opposite of the hot and dry habitat Tunisian tortoises need to survive.

"This species is critically endangered and they have very specific care requirements. However, the people who sell these creatures have no concern whatsoever for their welfare and give tourists incorrect and misleading advice about how to look after them.

"Street sellers will offer the tortoises as souvenirs for around 10 pounds and they are not treated like living, breathing creatures. The tortoises can be as small as a 50 pence piece and tourists will often leave them behind at their accommodation or bring them home in their suitcases.

"Of those smuggled in baggage, the majority will die during the journey or shortly afterwards.

"Our advice to holidaymakers is to simply walk away from street traders and remember that they may be risking an animal's life and committing a crime by bringing a tortoise into Scotland.

"Tunisia is an area of particular concern but we can't rule out other countries and we are urging anyone with information about illegally imported tortoises to call our animal helpline on 03000 999 999. Anyone calling us can be assured that we treat all information in strict confidence.

"The tortoises we have rescued are receiving the specialist care they need."

Anyone bringing a Tunisian tortoise into the country may be committing an offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997.

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