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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on January 12, 2001 at 07:12:14:
NEW VISION (Kampala, Uganda) 11 January 01 Wildlife Authority Impounds 209 Tortoises (Gerald Tenywa)
Kampala: The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has impounded 209 tortoises from suspected animal traffickers in Kampala. Sources said UWA, acting on a tip off from the Special Revenue Protection Services, confiscated the animals which were packed in hand luggage on a Tawfiq bus travelling from Dar-es-Salaam through Nairobi.
The traffickers reportedly abandoned their tortoises and fled after the luggage was inspected at Kibimba check point on Tororo-Jinja Road.
UWA handed the animals to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) and is investigating the matter. Mr. Wilhelm Moeller, the UWEC Technical Adviser, said that 11 of the animals were found dead.
"They were squeezed to death during transit," he said.
"Some of the survivors have damaged shells and might not survive," Moeller added.
Moeller said illegal trade in animals is thriving because of large numbers of pet collectors in Europe.
"We suspect that the traffickers were taking them to a European market," he said.
Moeller said the tortoises had been identified as Malacochersus tornei, an endangered species that inhabit rocky areas.
They live exclusively in Kenya and Tanzania.
Trade in the tortoises is prohibited under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species.
Kenya recently imposed a ban on export of the tortoises and Tanzania has restrictions on the exports of the endangered animals.
UWEC cannot release the animals into the wild as they are not known to occur anywhere in Uganda.
"We have told UWA to get a solution for them," Moeller said.
A temporary sanctuary measuring 25 square meters has been provided for the animals.
They are fed on vegetables at a cost of about sh30,000 daily.