Corfu tortoise smuggling

Ever since I first visited Corfu when I was 16 years old I have come across the type of reptile enthusiast or Herpetologist or whatever you want to call them who collect animals from the wild for no other purpose but to sell them. The first time I visited my favorite tortoise spot I found myself confronting a 30 year old man who had two tortoises in a cardboard box that he intended to take home with him. At the time, even at the age of 16 I felt an obligation to spell out to this individual the damage he is causing to one of the most beautiful areas of Corfu by taking the tortoises away from their natural homes. Needless to say on this occasion the man handed the animals back to me so I could release them. Seven years later I still  meet such people, but thankfully not too often.  Only this April in Crete was I informed of a man who had been collecting Leopard snakes (Zamenis situla) which has been a regular victim to the pet trade over the decades, perhaps a reason why on islands such as Corfu it is so scarce now.

In the news recently the following article turned up: I am very worried that by sharing my passion for these animals on websites such as my blog I am endangering such reptile further from these “reptile enthusiasts”. Corfu is really like a second home to me, I can even recognise individual tortoises year after year, and the knowledge that people are taking them for the pet trade is truely heart breaking. I am well aware that Corfu has been overcollected throughout the century, not just tortoises but snake species as well, and this maybe the reason why some of the most attractive species are so hard to find now.

It is a tough one, wanting to share experiences with people but at the same time not wanting to because of the risk of the wrong type of person reading them.

However, as I see each time I return to Corfu, many tortoises are thriving in some untouched areas, areas that only I and some trusted colleagues know about, so at least some will never end up in someones luggage.


One of my favorite reptiles: Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

One of my favorite reptiles: Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

3 Comments on “Corfu tortoise smuggling

  1. I understand perfectly what you feel on such occasions.. I myself just had a few clashes during spring with so-called pet-traders in Arad (Romania) who were offering for sale newts (smooth newts – Lissotriton vulgaris and crested newts – Triturus Cristatus), which are protected species.
    As their season as aquatic (and easy to catch) animals has passed, now one can occasionally discover European Pond Terrapins (Emys orbicularis) sold by fishermen on Sunday Pet Markets.
    In time, all this has to come to an end!


  2. Hi Matt
    I saw a pair of your favourites – Hermanns Tortoise being sold in a large pet store today…a company who apparently stoppped selling reptiles some years ago after a series of complaints about their care. I was most shocked to walk in and see, as well as the Tortioses, Leopard Gecko’s and Bearded dragons for sale
    Like yourself I am against keeping animals in captivity unless it is for good educational or conservational purposes.
    I know very little about tortiose care, but having helped look after Bearded dragons at a large zoo I do know about them. The sales assistant was clueless – they claim there staff are trained but she had clearly learnt a few basic facts ad verbatum and that was it!!!
    I do not want to go into too much more info here as I am looking into what can be done,
    I did want to highlight, however, that the problem goes way beyond the manner in which some of these animals are sourced. Even those bred legally can be sold to just about anybody. Just last year an article in the Telegraph claimed that more people keep reptiles now than do dogs!!!
    I have no clue as to how this worrying trend for keeping reptiles and amphibians that often have very specific requirements can be stopped.
    I wanted to cry coming out of that shop, but I had to leave them…I hope people read stories on blogs such as yours and think twice before purchasing such animals.


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