Tortoises stopped at the border

The two endangered Spur-Thighed tortoises after their rescue Photo: UK Borders Agency

Travelling without the right paperwork can often slow you down, although for two tortoises stopped at Port of Newhaven in Sussex, they probably weren't going very fast to begin with.

Border Force officers seized the two endangered reptiles because they didn't have the right paperwork and permits to enter the UK.

The young Spur-Thighed tortoises, each about three inches long, were found in the van of a man travelling from Morocco. They survived their long road trip inside a cardboard box in the back of the van and are currently being cared for while plans are drawn up for them to be re-housed.Importing 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.

The man attempting to smuggle the tortoises was travelling from Morocco via Dieppe to an address in London and stated that he was unaware of the licensing restrictions on importing such animals into the UK.

The tortoises were seized by Border Force officers earlier this month under EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

Tortoise smuggling is one of the five CITES priorities for Border Force, and they are offered the same level of protection within Europe as the giant panda or Bengal tiger.

Our officers at ports are working hard to deal with any items related to endangered species, as the discovery of these tortoises shows. This illicit trade is a serious contributory factor to the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species.

Border Force is cracking down on all types of smuggling, including live animals. There is a complete ban on bringing live animals into the UK unless you have the necessary permit. Anyone tempted to bring animals into the UK should be aware that if any are found by our officers they will be seized."

– Andy Lumb, Border Force