Tortoise Trust Policy on Conservation
and Humanitarian Issues
This document details official Tortoise Trust policy on the following issues:
1. International and bulk trade in tortoises and turtles
a) The Tortoise Trust is not opposed to trade in tortoises or turtles, it
is, however, opposed to unsustainable trade which damages natural
We believe that bulk trade in wild caught specimens should
only be permitted when conclusive evidence can be presented that the trade
in question is sustainable,
and that no long term damage to natural
densities will result.
b) The Tortoise Trust accepts that people desire tortoises
as pets and that this desire is unlikely to diminish.
We believe that this requirement is best served by
the development of commercial captive breeding programs. We further
believe that captive breeding programs in the natural bioclimatic
zones of the species in question are by far the most viable,
and we also believe that the development of such programs
would offer substantial benefits to local people and
their economy. The development of properly monitored,
scientifically based captive-breeding programs in third-world countries
would have the potential to meet market demand for tortoises and
turtles without collateral damage to wild populations.
c) The Tortoise Trust believes that the "4 inch" rule
adopted by the US Government, prohibiting the importation of animals of
less than 4 inches carapace length is unjustified
on public health grounds and is seriously damaging
to the development of the captive-breeding industry as it automatically
favours adult wild-caught animals over juvenile captive-bred stock.
If the US Government seriously believes that the sale of under 4-inch
turtles is such a serious public health hazard, the Tortoise Trust
questions why the export of millions of such animals to other
countries is considered acceptable by the same Government.
d) The Tortoise Trust, whilst opposed to bulk trade in
wild-caught specimens, recognizes that the development
of a successful captive-breeding industry does require
limited importation of wild breeding stock. We feel that
it would be in the best long-term interest of many species if suitably
qualified institutions and individuals were permitted access
to strictly limited quantities of wild-caught animals
for the purpose of developing effective captive-breeding
groups. We feel that a licensing system could be instituted
to monitor and control this aspect of the trade.
e) The Tortoise Trust fully recognises that captive breeding
alone is not a sufficient solution to all of the problems
facing tortoises and turtles in the wild. We would
very much like to see some of the funds generated by captive-breeding
directed towards supporting educational and habitat conservation
f) The Tortoise Trust supports the development of herpetoculture,
both private and commercial in intent, which it defines as a system
of producing herpetofauna under captive conditions
which is sustainable and which inflicts the minimum
possible damage on natural ecosystems.
2. Retail trade in tortoises and turtles
A. Reptiles and amphibians held in captivity shall be
housed under conditions which are humane, safe, and healthy.
B. Housing conditions shall meet all the following requirements:
1) Enclosures shall be designed to:
3. Trade in tortoises and turtles for food
a) The Tortoise Trust recognises that there are
extremely serious problems in certain parts
of the world with the over-exploitation of tortoises and turtles
for food or for traditional medicines.
b) The Tortoise Trust deplores the exceptional cruelty
typically inherent in this trade and recommends that where animals are
utilised for such purposes humane methods of slaughter
and maintenance prior to slaughter are adopted.
c) The Tortoise Trust recognises that human population
growth is a major factor in fuelling this trade and believes that universal
human population control is vital if the natural environment
and biodiversity are to be preserved throughout the
world for future generations to enjoy.
d) To reduce damage to natural populations, the Tortoise
Trust believes that it is imperative that where turtles
are to be consumed as food, these animals must be
sourced from scientifically managed captive-breeding programs
and not collected indiscriminately from the wild as is presently
4. Tortoises and turtles for research purposes
The Tortoise Trust does not itself fund or support programs
which involve experimental research on living animals
which result in suffering or death. Similarly, the
Tortoise Trust will not fund programs which involve taking and
killing animals for museum or taxonomic purposes.
5. Transport of Tortoises and Turtles
The Tortoise Trust believes that all tortoises and turtles
destined transport for commercial purposes shall be
humanely and adequately packed in suitable containers
and shall not be subject to inappropriate environmental
conditions or undue delay.
a) The Tortoise Trust believes that public education
is of paramount importance in pursuing all conservation
and humanitarian objectives.
b) The Tortoise Trust also believes that campaigns on
specific issues are often highly effective, and will
pursue such campaigns where it perceives an urgent
d) The Tortoise Trust does not accept the need for violent
or disruptive actions in pursuing its aims or objectives.