The aim of this article is to raise awareness to the unsuspecting public regarding an ongoing concern for the health of some
readily available tortoises ...
We continue to receive numerous reports from concerned owners regarding their newly acquired
tortoise which is already sick and when asked about the animal in question
the answer is nearly always the same 'around 3 Years old, less then
100mm not requiring a micro-chip, ill and reported to have originated from
Observation & Examination
All the individuals investigated seem to have a considerably
small, smooth, and dense carapace for a captive bred specimen - and one or more of the following ailments
... missing nails, plastron scrapes, scars, shell rot, carapace chips, runny
nose, wheezing, breathing
difficulties, lethargic, harbouring parasites
and reported association to cases of a potentially
fatal virus, with understandable symptoms of stress...
These kind of findings are not what you would expect to see
when examining captive breed populations, especially not in
such high numbers.
Wild Caught, Farmed or
Captive Bred ?
Are these tortoises "Captive Bred" well that's the question
being asked again and again ...
A number of enthusiasts have reported they were offered similar tortoises
with certificates and that they could be obtained in extremely high
numbers from 5000 to "as many as you like" it is very
concerning to understand a breeder could have "countless" Juveniles
for sale. To put this into picture - in order to have 5000 three
year old tortoises available would suggest 5000 hatchlings are produced each year
... this would require housing of 5000 hatchlings, 5000 one year olds, 5000
two year olds, and then the 5000 three year olds ... not counting the 1000+
producing females and males to create this huge colony of 20,000
Amongst others A.C.Highfield of the 'Tortoise Trust' has reported;.
Quote ... "On contacting the Conservation Committee of the Slovenian
Herpetological Society, for example, we were told that they had “no
knowledge” of any commercial captive breeding programs in their country."
breeding program of this magnitude surely this would be something to be proud of,
such an accomplishment! Yet, No one has shown any conclusive evidence
breeding program of this scale is actually taking place, do you know
We have been informed that
when a seller was approached by the new owner on the concerns of the smooth carapace
they were informed this was due to the tortoises diet, not being manually feed but
allowed to naturally graze for their food (Farmed?), this could be a
contributing factor to why these tortoises
to be timid, stressed, and/or partially reluctant feeders - which in turn can be
indication that they are not acclimatised to their captivity, the
change in environment from free roaming to a captive
enclosure with often un-welcomed human interaction can invariably cause
stress which can eventually lead to illness ... This is a well known
reaction that can often occur when restraining a former wild tortoise in
an alien captive environment.
On other accounts we have
been informed that a number of consignments containing these tortoises
have been stopped by 'HM Customs and Excise' when attempting to
enter the UK, and
on the grounds of their extremely poor health they have been seized -
the ailments are usually well established and often requiring many hours of specialist
though its unlikely that the matter will be settled quickly until evidence is made
Surely its unacceptable to allow the tortoises to suffer meanwhile... shouldn't they come first ?
A study commissioned by
DEFRA and Performed by TRAFFIC International uncovered several concerning
Quote ... "The cheapest tortoises found on sale were Hermann’s Tortoises from Slovenia available direct from a British importer."
"This price differential could be an indicator that the Slovenian-sourced tortoises may not be captive-bred, as such an operation would incur high
costs, which would be passed onto the purchaser." more...
The statistical figures for this chart were provided by Defra (UK).
In 2003 Slovenia joined the EU enabling transportation of certificated
tortoises to freely leave the country and cross into the European Community.
As you will see from the graph above the huge number of T.hermanni - certificated
here in the UK which originated from Slovenia, the figure of 1341 specimens
dwarfs that of the UK and
Germany put together, and yet no other Mediterranean species were recorded
How can this effect you
We respond to the unfortunate owners who have purchased an ill tortoise as to help best we can,
which is obviously too
late in this reactive manner, the new owner is also stressed and in
variably finding themselves biting off more then they can chew, spending more on Veterinarian fees than they did
in the first place obtaining their tortoise - and this may just be the start.
We have also heard of an encounter where a breeder in Europe looking to add additional
bloodlines into their own group and unknowingly at that time opted for
several of these cheaper tortoises, it was to be a painful lesson for the breeder
and a tragic fate for some of their long established group after becoming
victims of an introduced fatal virus.
How many Tortoises to the Pound ?
This is another clue in establishing the origin of these tortoises, with
all these large numbers of tortoises being held back for a numbers of years before
being sold comes at a price ... but yet these tortoises are sold extremely cheaply
considering importation / transport fees are incurred within this price
its even more astounding.
Traders - Classifieds - Free Adds
We have all seen free adds placed by so called "reptile traders"
multiplying out of control and these more often than not turn out to be Slovenian
tortoises stating even further price reductions when purchasing in numbers
or 3's ... to these people the tortoise seems to be quick money,
with questionable pedigree these tortoises can then be purchased cheaply
and sold on to the unsuspecting public as an 'off the shelf
What can you do to help ?
We would like to ask for your help in becoming proactive by ...
Simply educating the people around you on the possible pitfalls that can be
avoided when selecting a new tortoise, and when considering purchasing a
tortoise don't rush into anything, a little research could save - time,
money, committing an offence, and more importantly a tortoises life.