Two endangered tortoises found in the van of a man travelling from Morocco have been seized at Newhaven ferry port by Border Force officers.
The juvenile Spur-Thighed tortoises survived their long road trip inside a cardboard box in the back of the van and are currently being cared for while plans are drawn up for them to be re-housed.
The man attempting to smuggle the tortoises was travelling from Morocco via Dieppe with a female passenger to an address in London and stated that he was unaware of the licensing restrictions on importing such animals into the UK.
The tortoises, both around three inches long, were seized by Border Force officers on November 17 under EU Wildlife Trade Regulations which affords it the highest level of protection for a wildlife species within the EU.
The importation of tortoises is restricted under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and they can only be brought into the UK if the correct permits have been applied for and issued.
The tortoises did not have the necessary accompanying paperwork and permits.
Tortoise smuggling is one of the five CITES priorities for Border Force, and they are offered the same level of protection within Europe as the giant panda or Bengal tiger.
Andy Lumb, of Border Force, said: “Our officers at ports are working hard to deal with any items related to endangered species, as the discovery of these tortoises shows.
“This illicit trade is a serious contributory factor to the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species.
“Border Force is cracking down on all types of smuggling, including live animals.
“There is a complete ban on bringing live animals into the UK unless you have the necessary permit.
“Anyone tempted to bring animals into the UK should be aware that if any are found by our officers they will be seized.”
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call our hotline on 0800 59 5000