The Egyptian Tortoise – latest news on the 2005 confiscated shipment in Italy

Alessandro Fornetti reported extensively on the confiscated shipments of tortoises that originated in Libya in the 2008 TSA Newsletter. At that time, the legal situation regarding the shipments was uncertain and even after almost three years, almost no progress could be reported. However, the condition of the first 2005 confiscation is stable. The animals were housed at the Rome Zoo Bioparco, were properly cared for and from this group about 35 offspring can be reported. Eventually, during the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009 a constructive communication arose between TSA Europe and the Italian CITES authorities.

During a WWF/TRAFFIC/EU-Twix workshop in Tarvisio/Italy in February 2009, Alessandro and Henk positively discussed this issue with CITES Italy representatives. After this meeting, the settlement of the CITES procedures was sped up. In the background, a vital role was also played by Bioparco curator reptiles Stefano Micarelli.

In June 2009, CITES certificates were suddenly issued for transfer of 150 tortoises to eight European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) institutions and two privately-managed turtle centers. By the end of June/early July these 150 tortoises will be transferred to the EAZA zoos of London, Whipsnade, Chester,  Bristol in the UK, Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic, Terrariet Vissenbjerg in Denmark, Antwerp Zoo in Belgium and Parken Zoo in Sweden. The private institutions are ARCO Spain in Tabernas/Almeria in Spain and the Centre pour Recuperation des Tortues in Switzerland. Thanks to this transfer, the breeding programmes in Europe will get a big boost. The Libyan specimens will be separately managed within the EAZA EEP.

Obviously, the long period of three and a half years after confiscation is not an ideal situation. Zoos are often not well equipped to house large numbers of confiscated animals. Nevertheless the Bioparco Zoo managed to keep the majority of the originally confiscated 280 tortoises in good condition and with limited mortality. At the same time, approximately 35 births were reported. Thanks to this situation, the communication and cooperation between the parties involved (CITES Italy, Corpo Forestale, Bioparco and TSA Europe) finally improved and hopefully this will be a basis for future confiscations.

- Henk Zwartepoorte and Alessandro Fornetti