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Tortoise Trust Policy on Conservation and Humanitarian Issues

This document details official Tortoise Trust policy on the following issues:

1. International and bulk trade in tortoises and turtles


    a) The Tortoise Trust is not opposed to trade in tortoises or turtles, it is, however, opposed to  unsustainable trade which damages natural populations. We believe that bulk trade in wild caught   specimens should only be permitted when conclusive evidence can be presented that the trade in   question is sustainable, and that no long term damage to natural population densities will result.

    b) The Tortoise Trust accepts that people desire tortoises as pets and that this desire is unlikely to diminish. We believe that this requirement is best served by the development of commercial captive breeding programs. We further believe that captive breeding programs in the natural bioclimatic zones of the species in question are by far the most viable, and we also believe that the development of such programs would offer substantial benefits to local people and their economy. The development of properly monitored, scientifically based captive-breeding programs in third-world countries would have the potential to meet market demand for tortoises and turtles without collateral damage to wild populations.

    c) The Tortoise Trust believes that the "4 inch" rule adopted by the US Government, prohibiting the importation of animals of less than 4 inches carapace length is unjustified on public health grounds and is seriously damaging to the development of the captive-breeding industry as it automatically favours adult wild-caught animals over juvenile captive-bred stock. If the US Government seriously believes that the sale of under 4-inch turtles is such a serious public health hazard, the Tortoise Trust questions why the export of millions of such animals to other countries is considered acceptable by the same Government.


    d) The Tortoise Trust, whilst opposed to bulk trade in wild-caught specimens, recognizes that the development of a successful captive-breeding industry does require limited importation of wild breeding stock. We feel that it would be in the best long-term interest of many species if suitably qualified institutions and individuals were permitted access to strictly limited quantities of wild-caught animals for the purpose of developing effective captive-breeding groups. We feel that a licensing system could be instituted to monitor and control this aspect of the trade.


    e) The Tortoise Trust fully recognises that captive breeding alone is not a sufficient solution to all of the problems facing tortoises and turtles in the wild. We would very much like to see some of the funds generated by captive-breeding directed towards supporting educational and habitat conservation programs.


    f) The Tortoise Trust supports the development of herpetoculture, both private and commercial in intent,  which it defines as a system of producing herpetofauna  under captive conditions which is sustainable and which inflicts the minimum possible damage on natural ecosystems.


2. Retail trade in tortoises and turtles


    A. Reptiles and amphibians held in captivity shall be housed under conditions which are humane, safe, and healthy.
    B. Housing conditions shall meet all the following requirements:
                  1) Enclosures shall be designed to:
        a ) Provide appropriate lighting, temperatures, humidity and clean water to meet the physical requirements of the reptile or amphibian;
        b) Keep the reptile or amphibian in complete and continuous captivity;
        c) Restrict the entry of unauthorised persons or predatory animals;
        d) Provide sufficient fresh food and clean water to fulfil the reptile or amphibian's dietary requirements and present the food and water in a manner compatible with the captive's particular eating habits, and;
        e) Minimize any potential danger to humans;
      2) Enclosures shall be maintained in a sanitary condition and good repair;
      3) Equipment shall be available for proper storage and disposal of waste material to control vermin, insects, and obnoxious odours;
      4) Effective measures shall be provided to prevent and control infection and infestation of disease, parasites, or vermin;
      5) Adequate shelter shall be provided for the comfort of the animal and, where necessary, for the isolation of diseased reptiles or amphibians, and;

      6) Reptiles or amphibians which are housed together shall be in compatible groups without overcrowding;

      7) Reptiles or amphibians which are offered for sale shall be correctly labelled and described with both a common name (if available) and a scientific name;
      8) Reptiles or amphibians shall, where sold, be accompanied by a basic information sheet which shall include the animal's essential housing  requirements, dietary requirements and any other information deemed relevant;
      9) Captive-bred and wild-caught animals shall clearly and accurately be labelled as such.


3. Trade in tortoises and turtles for food


    a) The Tortoise Trust  recognises that there are extremely serious problems  in certain parts of the world with the over-exploitation of tortoises and turtles for food or for traditional medicines.

    b) The Tortoise Trust deplores the exceptional cruelty typically inherent in this trade and recommends that where animals are utilised for such purposes humane methods of slaughter and maintenance prior to slaughter are adopted.


    c) The Tortoise Trust recognises that human population growth is a major factor in fuelling this trade and believes that universal human population control is vital if the natural environment and biodiversity are to be preserved throughout the world for future generations to enjoy.


    d) To reduce damage to natural populations, the Tortoise Trust believes that it is imperative that where turtles are to be consumed as food, these animals must be sourced from scientifically managed captive-breeding programs and not collected indiscriminately from the wild as is presently the case.


4. Tortoises and turtles for research purposes


    The Tortoise Trust does not itself fund or support programs which involve experimental research on living animals which result in suffering or death. Similarly, the Tortoise Trust will not fund programs which involve taking and killing animals for museum or taxonomic purposes.


5. Transport of Tortoises and Turtles


    The Tortoise Trust believes that all tortoises and turtles destined transport for commercial purposes shall be humanely and adequately packed in suitable containers and shall not be subject to inappropriate environmental conditions or undue delay.


6. Strategies


    a) The Tortoise Trust believes that public education is of paramount importance in pursuing all conservation and humanitarian objectives.

    b) The Tortoise Trust also believes that campaigns on specific issues are often highly effective, and will pursue such campaigns where it perceives an urgent need.

    d) The Tortoise Trust does not accept the need for violent or disruptive actions in pursuing its aims or objectives.