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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation


Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions Tollgate House, Houlton Street, Bristol, BS2 9DJ
Presented at the Symposium at the University of Bristol 15th April 2000

Members of the British Chelonia Group are affected by trade control in the species, through CITES and EC Regulations 338/97 and 939/97.

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which came into force in 1975. UK became a party in 1976. There are currently 151 countries party to CITES.

The aim of CITES is to prevent international trade from threatening the survival of animals and plants in the wild. In this context, trade means import, export, re-export or the introduction from the sea.

Although there are some 1.3 million species of animals and plants in

the world - only about 30,000 (or about 2%) are controlled by CITES. Some 5,000 of these are animal species.

Over use by trade, which is worth billions of dollars - both local and international - of wild animals and plants is the second greatest threat to their survival after the destruction of their habitats.

CITES only bans trade in those species of animals and plants that are currently threatened with extinction in the wild - which is about 800 out of the 30,000 species controlled by CITES.

As well as live animals and plants, the controls apply to parts and derivatives - that is anything which is made from, or derived from them - also they apply to any products which contain or even claim to contain a CITES species.

The controls are based on a system of permits and certificates which may only be issued where certain conditions are met.

CITES implemented within the European Union by Council Regulation 338/97 and Commission Regulation 939/97 which were introduced on 1 June 1997.

The EC Regulations set out the rules for the import export, sale and movement of the species to which the controls apply. also, in certain circumstances, they apply stricter measures than those imposed by the convention - this is provided for in the convention. The CITES species are listed in Annex A - D (see Table 1).

How It Affects Tortoises And Turtles

Council Regulation EC no 338/97 and 939/97 which came into effect on 1 June 1997 mean that;

  • all sea turtles and 12 species of land tortoise are listed in Annex A of Council Regulation ( EC) no. 338/97, which implements the convention on international trade in endangered species within the EU.
  • Commercial trade in wild taken specimens of these species is strictly prohibited, although exceptions may be made for specimens that are required for breeding, research or educational purposes of benefit to the conservation of the species.
  • Exceptions may be. also made in the case of captive bred specimens, and specimens acquired before the CITES controls came into force.
  • All other tortoise species and some freshwater turtles are listed in Annex B of Council Regulation (EC) no. 338/97 and may be traded commercially where the UK scientific authority is satisfied that this will not be harmful to the conservation of the species.
FaunaAnnex AAnnex BAnnex CCommon Name
Dermatemydidae Dematemys mawii (II) Central American river turtle
EmydidaeBatagur baska (I)  Batagur
  Callagur borneoensis (II) Painted terrapin
  Clemmys insculpta (II) Wood turtle
 Clemmys mublenbergi (I)  Bog turtle
  Cuora pani =438 Pan's box turtle
 Geoclemys hamiltonii (I) =439  Black pond turtle
 Kachuga tecta (I) =440  Indian sawback turtle
 Melanochelys tricarinata (I) =441  Three-keeled land tortoise
 Morenia ocellata (I)  Burmese swamp turtle
  Terrapene spp* (II) Box turtles
 Terrapene coachuila (I)  Aquatic box turtle
  Trachemys scripta elegans =442 Red-eared terrapin
Testudinidae Testudinidae spp* (II) Tortoises
 Geochelone nigra (I) =443  Galapagos giant tortoise
 Geochelone radiata (I) =444  Radiated tortoise
 Geochelone yniphora (I) =444  Angonoka
 Gopherus ftavomarginatus (I)  Bolson tortoise
 Homopus bergeri (II)  Berger's cape tortoise
 Malacochersus tornieri (II)  Pancake tortoise
 Psammobates geometricus (I) =444  Geometric tortoise
 Pyxis planicauda (II)  Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise
 Testudo graece (II)  Spur-thighed tortoise
 Testudo hermanni (II)  Hermann's tortoise
 Testudo kleinmanni (I)  Egyptian tortoise
 Testudo marginata (II)  Marginated tortoise
CheloniidaeCheloniidae spp. (I)  Sea turtles
DermochelyidaeDermochelys coriacea (I)  Leatherback
Trionychidae Lissemys punctata (II) Indo-Gangetic flap-shelled turtle
 Trionyx ater (I) =445  Cuatro Cienagas soft-shell turtle
 Trionyx gangeticus (I) =445  Indian soft-shell turtle
 Trionyx hurum (I) =445  Peacock soft-shell turtle
 Trionyx nigricans (I) =445  Black soft-shell turtle
   Trionyx triunguis (III GH)African soft-shelled turtle
Pelomedusidae Erymnochelys madagascariensis (II) =446 Madagascar sideneck turtle
   Pelomedusa subrufa (III GH)Helmeted turtle
  Peltocephalus dumeriliana (II) =446 Big-headed sideneck turtle
   Pelusios adansonii (III CH)Adanson's mud turtle
   Pelusios castaneus (III CH)West African mud turtle
   Pelusios gabonensis (III GH) =447African forest turtle
   Pelusios niger (III GH)West African black forest turtle
  Podocnemis spp. (II) Sideneck turtles
ChelidaePseudemydura umbrina (I)  Western swamp turtle

Table 1.Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2307/97 of 18 November 1997 amending Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein.


  • permits are required to import/export any Annex A or B species. a certificate is required to sell any Annex A tortoise or turtle specimens, other than worked specimens acquired before 1 June 1947. Live specimens must also be marked with a microchip transponder (>100mm).
  • importers must be able to show that the specimens were lawfully acquired and, in the case of live specimens, that they have adequate facilities to house and care for them. also that the recipients of annex b specimens are properly informed of how to look after them.
  • the European Commission also has powers to ban the import of specimens on the grounds that trade will be detrimental to the conservation of the species in wild, or that they are unlikely to survive captivity.


  • trade has become more difficult since the EC implemented an Article 4.6c ban (unlikely to survive in captivity for a considerable proportion of their potential life span) on the commoner Annex B tortoise species. Indeed all but a few species cannot be imported from the wild and even those are in many cases protected in their own countries and not allowed for export. Even if an application were to be made and an export permit obtained there is no guarantee that an import permit would be issued.
  • exceptions may, however, be made in the case of zoos, scientific institutions and specialist keepers where the specimens are required for breeding, research or educational purposes of benefit to the conservation of the species.
  • trade in captive bred specimens will continue to be encouraged, however, on the grounds that this will reduce the pressure on wild populations of these species.


There are four types of documents used within the EU but only two usually apply to yourselves. These are


1 ) Permits for trade:
Before trade in any CITES species can take place, the relevant cites permits must be applied for and issued prior to shipment taking place. As a general rule applications made under these conditions are allowed.

The CITES permits must be presented to the relevant customs authority before import, export or re-export is allowed. Failure to obtain or present the correct cites permits will lead to the consignment being detained or confiscated by customs.

Permits are only valid for one shipment.

(Re)export permits are valid for 6 months.

Import permits cannot exceed the expiry date of the accompanying export permit; but must not exceed 12 months.


Article 10 certificates are normally issued for 3 distinct purposes as follows:

  1. to authorise the sale or offer for sale and use / display for commercial purposes of certain specimens of species listed in Annex A.
  2. To authorise the movement of live Annex A specimens from the premises specified in the original import permit.
  3. where Annex A-C specimens are being exported or re-exported from another EU member state, to certify that these were lawfully imported or acquired within the community.

However whilst the layout of the form is the same we issue two types of certificate, holders and breeders.


These are issued, as the name suggests, to the breeder of naturally captive bred unsold Annex A specimens. These specimens have to be marked in accordance with the Regulations. For chelonia this is usually a microchip transponder.

This is a one-off certificate that will be valid for all subsequent transactions for the designated specimen. It is in effect a passport for the specimen. Unlike the holders it can be used for all the functions listed on it in other EC countries.

Any breeders certificates which are lost cannot be replaced and a new certificate will be required for each subsequent sale of that specimen.

Breeders must keep accurate records, in the style recommended by the department and make them available for inspection.

Where this is considered necessary in the interest of security, the address of the breeder can be omitted from the certificate.

Following discussions with chelonia interests these are issued with the condition that the specimen be micro chipped when it reaches 1 00mm in size.

Once this has been done the certificate should be returned with details of the chip. We will up date our records and return the certificate. However the onus is on the owner to ensure details are kept about the specimen so that it can be identified if requested.


These are issued to owners of specimens. These will be specific to the holder

Generally member states work on the principal of issuing a certificate for:

  • the offering for sale;
  • the transport for sale;


  • the actual sale of specimens within their own territory.

They may also authorise:

  • the display to the public for commercial purposes;
  • the use for commercial gain;


  • the keeping for sale of such specimens within their own territory but cannot authorise such activities within the territory of another member state and a separate certificate will be required for this purpose.

Holder certificates are valid for one sale only,

  • The new owner must apply for a further certificate if he or she wishes to resell the specimen.


Member states may also issue semi-completed certificates for breeders to complete when the specimens are hatched.

I do not propose to go into detail about what has to be submitted when making an applications or the procedures we go through as this is dealt with in the various notes which we make available.

Certificates will not be required for the purchase, offer to purchase, or acquisition for commercial purposes, if a certificate has already been issued for the sate of the specimen concerned.

They are required when offering specimens for sale. Many adverts appear in magazines/ papers for Annex A species which do not have the appropriate certificates and we will take appropriate action.

However certificates are not required to advertise specimens for sale before the eggs are laid but such adverts must be suitably worded.

Someone breeding tortoises for sale will need a use certificate for the parents even if it is not intended to sell them. The parents will also be subject to the marking requirement.


A certificate is not required if owners wish to give their specimens away, or use or display them for non-commercial purposes. However, where the transaction involves some form of exchange or other benefit in kind, either at the time or subsequently, this is regarded as a commercial .transaction and will require a certificate.


Following our consultation exercise we are proposing to adopt a simpler three-tier fee structure as follows:

  • applications for bird registration documents, CITES permits and Article 10 certificates: £25 each or 20% of the total value of the consignment, whichever is less.
  • concurrent bird registration and Article 10 applications for the same specimens - £30 for the two documents, or 20% of the total value of the consignment, whichever is less.
  • Article 30 certificates for zoos, museums and other similar institutions - £50 each and a revised fee schedule will be introduced in the summer.

There are still details to be sorted out and special meeting will be arranged with the main users on how best to determine the 20% valuation of specimens.

All those who replied to the consultation will receive a letter informing them of the results of the consultation paper in due course.

The DETR are currently talking with lawyers to draft a statutory instrument to give them the power to charge for both CITES and bird registration. Hopefully, the Regulations implementing these changes should be in place by the summer. Further details will be published in the CITES bulletin.

Likely to be introduced towards the end of 2000.


There are 25 of us in Global Wildlife Branch, GWD3. I am directly responsible for the 20 staff who make up the two teams dealing with bird of prey registration documents, and CITES sale exemption certificates and import and export permits. You will have dealings with the CITES team of which there are 12 members.

During 1999 we issued 20,248 CITES import permits 85% within our 21 day target.

Of these:-
25 applications were used to import 2,822 tortoises
13,954 Article 10 certificates were 86% in target
3,159 were for tortoises
5,375 registration documents were again 86% in target

Details about CITES permits and certificates, advice and guidance can be found on our website;

Testudo Volume Five Number Two 2000