KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17, 2015:
You may want to think twice about purchasing an Indian Star tortoise online.
This is because you could be responsible for its demise, cautions Traffic.
The wildlife trade monitoring network’s Southeast Asia (Pets and Fashion) programme officer, Serene Chng, warns that the journey to the doorstep of the buyer could kill the reptile.
This could be due to dehydration if they are kept in poor conditions, without proper access to food or water or injured through rough handling or packed inappropriately.
Stressed animals, she added, were more susceptible to disease, and may contract potentially fatal diseases, especially if they were transported with other sick animals.
In addition, unsanitary conditions may arise when they are crammed into small spaces in close contact with the waste matter of others.
“It is not surprising that so many die during or shortly after transport,” Chng told The Rakyat Post.
Tortoises, she explained, were commonly smuggled in suitcases, which are often checked in on passenger flights.
Chng went on to state that there were strict guidelines which should be followed when transporting live animals such as tortoises.
For one, tortoises should be transported in a natural position and not placed one on top of another.
“If they are placed in bags, these should be large enough to allow them to extend their head and legs at the same time and be fastened to the container so that they do not move around in transit.
“There should be a suitable substrate to absorb moisture and stop them from sliding,” she said, adding it was vital that any international transportation of tortoises be accompanied by permits.
Mortality rates, she revealed, were “high”, citing an incident in 2011, when 28 of the 47 tortoises died when the reptiles were smuggled into Indonesia.
In 2007, 19 out of 404 Indian Star Tortoises died before being repatriated from Malaysia to India, while in 2003, 65 of the 580 reptiles were found dead upon entry into the nation from Chennai in India.
It was important, Chng added, for potential buyers to be aware as to how the smuggled tortoises were transported and hoped that it would be enough for buyers of exotic pets to reconsider their purchase.
Last month, Chng published a report she co-authored which revealed that at least 1,023 Indian Star Tortoises were offered for sale online in 185 separate advertisements, during the period from September 2006 to February 2015.
The Indian Star tortoise is protected under the International Trade of Endangered Species Act 2008 and Wildlife Conservation Act in Malaysia, which regulates the export and import of CITES-listed species, such as the Indian Star Tortoise, and requires a permit to own one.
CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants did not threaten their survival.