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Posted by W von Papinešu on January 23, 2003 at 21:03:04:
NORTHERN ECHO (Darlington, UK) 23 January 03 Plea to holidaymakers: Don't deny reptiles their creature comforts
Tourists from the North-East have been reminded to take care about what they bring home - after two rare Tunisian tortoises were brought in illegally into the country.
The babies, estimated to be about three months old, were handed to the Reptile Trust, in Burnopfield, County Durham, after being brought through Newcastle Airport without being detected.
The owners of the reptiles handed them over to trust curator Peter Heathcote.
He said: "This is something that is happening more and more frequently across the country.
"People on holiday in Tunisia are buying baby tortoises for as little as £10 from markets and bringing them back to England.
"Many do not realise they are committing a serious offence under UK law as well as affecting the survival of this endangered species."
Mr Heathcote said the trust had obtained the necessary paperwork from Customs and Excise to allow the reptiles to be re-homed in this country.
He said: "We are urging people who are planning to take a holiday abroad that they should not bring any animals back with them without seeking the appropriate advice from the authorities.
"This species of tortoise does not have the ability to survive in a garden and does not hibernate. Its care is complex and should only be undertaken by experienced enthusiasts."
The discovery comes months after a campaign was launched at Newcastle Airport urging people not to return with wildlife souvenirs, which are helping drive endangered species to the brink of extinction.
The initiative, run between the World Wildlife Fund, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and HM Customs and Excise draws attention to some souvenirs banned altogether including tortoise shells, ivory and medicines made from parts of animals such as tigers and snow leopards.
It is illegal to bring birds such as parrots into the country, while a licence is needed for items such as snakeskin shoes and crocodile handbags.