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: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/essex/8156846.stm 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.