Tortoise-smuggling causes headaches at Prague Zoo
The fifteen of July was a lucky day for 670 tortoises which were seized from an animal dealer in the south-east of the Czech Republic. An investigation has begun into a possible large-scale illegal trade in endangered species. The tortoises in question, that are worth a million crowns and were born and raised in captivity, have now been taken to zoos in Brno and Prague. Petr Velensky, a reptile specialist in Prague's zoo, showed Radio Prague's Jarka Halkova 340 of the tortoises that they are currently taking care of at the zoo.
In the Czech Republic animals come third in the list of smuggled goods after drugs and weapons, and tortoises are the most frequent victims of this illegal traffic.
"Smuggled animals are cheaper than animals legally bred in captivity. Southern European animals are top of the list. The majority of smuggled animals come from Greece or Yugoslavia. I think that a part of them is going to another countries in Europe. Maybe even to Japan. Japanese are famous collectors of pets and animals."
The situation in taking care of animals seized from smugglers should improve within the next two years. Petr Velensky says there are plans for a centre where endangered animals once seized by custom officers could stay for some time.
What should you do if you find out that your tortoise at home might have been smuggled?
"Every animal which is under protection must have his own document of identification. If you don't have it you must go to your local environmental office and say "Well I have an illegal tortoise." You will have to pay a fine because you did some illegal practice. Then you will obtain this licence. It is like ownership of a gun."