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Tortoises as Pets

Captivity can be a death sentence for a tortoise:

:: Wild animals seldom adapt well to captivity, even if they do live long or breed. Captivity can mean a slow death for some animals, particularly those with a specialised diet or habitat requirements.

:: Unwanted pet tortoises are often released in any field or park. This false freedom can be fatal because pet tortoises have become accustomed to captivity and battle to fend for themselves in their new environment.

All species of tortoises in the Western Cape are protected by the Nature Conservation Ordinance (Ord. no 19 of, 1974). Accordingly, no tortoise or part thereof (i.e. the shell) or tortoise eggs may be collected, transported, sold, received as a gift, given, kept in captivity, possessed, imported or exported. Species such as the geometric tortoise, which is classified as a threatened wild animal, have special protection. Although Cape Nature Conservation discourages keeping tortoises in captivity, people who wish to keep tortoises and who have suitable facilities, may apply for a permit.

Captivity has disadvantages:

:: Tortoises are adapted to a specific natural habitat. Their survival is dependent on the correct food and climate. When a tortoise is removed from its natural habitat, it can die because of the different conditions.

:: Pet tortoises are lost to the survival of the species in the wild.

:: Tortoises are often released in areas that are ecologically unsuitable and which fall beyond the species' natural distribution. In these areas it is difficult for them to survive.

:: In such cases the .strange tortoises can transmit diseases to tortoises which naturally occur.

:: Tortoises released beyond their natural distribution range can inter-breed with local tortoises.

:: Pet tortoises suffer from parasites such as ticks and worms and may spread virus-borne diseases to healthy, natural populations.

Anyone with unwanted tortoises can contact Cape Nature Conservation to ensure that a suitable home is found for the animals. Please contact your localCAPE NATURE CONSERVATION offices for advice.

Source: Cape Nature Conservation


  Article Date: 13 July 2004

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