Stansted Airport: Woman arrested in connection with smuggling endangered tortoises into the UK

FIFTEEN endangered tortoises worth up to �4,500 have been discovered by UK Border Agency officers at Stansted Airport after a passenger tried to smuggle them into the country.

A 54-year-old woman from Plymouth was arrested when she returned from Morocco following a holiday on Sunday (May 8).

The spur-thighed tortoises were found still alive, but underweight and infested with tics, in three cardboard boxes that had been placed in a bag in the hold of the aircraft.

The woman was released on bail while UK Border Agency enquiries continue.

The importation of tortoises is restricted under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and they can only be brought into the UK if the correct permits have been applied for and issued.

Further inquiries by UK Border Agency officers revealed the tortoises did not have the necessary accompanying paperwork and permits.

The tortoises have survived their ordeal and are currently being cared for in quarantine while plans are drawn up for them to be re-housed.

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They were seized by UK Border Agency officers under EU Wildlife Trade Regulation Annex A which affords them the highest level of protection for a wildlife species within the EU.

UK Border Agency Assistant Director of Criminal and Financial Investigations, Malcolm Bragg, said: “The illicit trade in endangered animals is a serious contributory factor to the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species.

“This seizure demonstrates the UK Border Agency takes its role in enforcing international agreements and prohibitions designed to protect the natural environment very seriously.

“Anyone tempted to trade in protected creatures and plants should think again and companies need to make sure they have the right paperwork before they import exotic animals into the UK. I also urge holiday makers to ensure the souvenirs they buy do not contribute to this problem because these creatures can carry diseases.”

Tortoise smuggling is one of the five CITES priorities for the UK Border Agency in 2011.