Family caught smuggling tortoises inside cigarette packets at airport

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:51 10 September 2018

The tortoises were found in cigarette packets. Picture: Home Office

The tortoises were found in cigarette packets. Picture: Home Office


Border Force officers at Bristol Airport rescued three tortoises which passengers attempted to smuggle into the UK concealed in cigarette packages.

The tortoises were found in cigarette packets. Picture: Home OfficeThe tortoises were found in cigarette packets. Picture: Home Office

The discovery was made on August 28 after a family of six people arrived in Bristol on a flight from Tunisia.

A baggage search revealed three tortoises concealed in separate suitcases which had been in the baggage hold.

Each tortoise was found underneath layers of clothing inside cigarette packets containing single lettuce leaves.

The Home Office confirmed to the Mercury no family members were charged over the incident.

The tortoises were found in cigarette packets. Picture: Home OfficeThe tortoises were found in cigarette packets. Picture: Home Office

Border Force officers contacted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) team which confirmed the animals were controlled under CITES and required the correct permits to be imported legally.

Border Force officers arranged for the animals to be transported to a separate facility where they will be cared for appropriately.

Peter Jones, assistant director for Border Force Bristol, said: “Clearly, transporting animals in such a way and without the correct paperwork is not acceptable.

“Rules are in place for reasons of animal welfare and thanks to the intervention of our officers, these tortoises can now be properly cared for.

“This should serve as a warning to anyone thinking about transporting wildlife in such conditions.”

The RSPCA condemned the family’s actions as the animals have ‘specific requirements’ and should be cared for in the appropriate manner.

Its spokesman said: “Reptiles have specific requirements and need a controlled environment, tortoises smuggled illegally into the country in this way are very likely to have suffered.

“The needs of exotic animals can be challenging to meet by members of the public because they are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions which can be difficult to replicate in a home.

“We urge anyone thinking about getting an exotic pet to thoroughly research the animal’s needs and what is needed to care for them properly, using expert sources and only consider keeping one if they can ensure they are fully able to provide for these needs.”

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