Holidaymakers warned against bringing live tortoises home to Scotland

Holidaymakers warned against bringing live tortoises home to Scotland

Holidaymakers are being warned not to smuggle live tortoises into Scotland after one was handed in to an animal rescue centre.

The Scottish SPCA is urging tourists not to be tempted by street traders selling the creatures and warned they may be risking its life and will be committing a crime by bringing it home.

It comes after a Tunisian tortoise was handed in to the charity’s Glasgow centre about two weeks ago.

The reptile was the sole survivor of three that were brought back into the country by someone who had been on holiday in Tunisia.

Last year the charity seized four Tunisian tortoises believed to have been brought into Scotland illegally and undercover.

An undercover inspector from the Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit said: « 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 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. »

The charity believes the tortoise handed in to the Glasgow centre had been kept in a bath full of water, which is the opposite of the hot and dry habitat Tunisian tortoises need to survive.

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.

The Scottish SPCA said that while Tunisia is an area of particular concern, it may also be an issue in other countries.

It urged anyone with information about illegally imported tortoises to call its animal helpline on 03000 999 999 where information will be treated in strict confidence.