The NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit has been part of a forum to tackle the large number of leopard tortoises that cannot be released from rehabilitation centres in Gauteng province, South Africa.
Recent inspections confirmed over 200 of these animals are confined in only three different rehabilitation centres in Gauteng. These animals cannot be released according to the Gauteng Department of Agricultural and Rural Development (GDARD)’s biodiversity management department. The large number of these animals in confinement are due to members of the public picking up tortoises from the roadside thinking they need to be rescued.
Furthermore this is also due to illegal breeders, private owners keeping these animals as pets and, of course, the illegal roadside sellers. Illegal hawking is an ongoing concern and is being addressed by the NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit by conducting a large scale investigation and compiling evidence to use in a court case.
Though many of these reptiles are found in a severe state of malnutrition, overheated, underweight, sick or injured, the majority are healthy tortoises that one would be able to release into a managed system.
Despite the established forum having discussed the issue extensively, the outcome for these animals looks very bleak due to the Conservation department’s unwillingness to make a decision.
We urgently appeal to members of the public to stop keeping tortoises as pets. By leaving these gentle animals in the wild you will also help relieve the burden placed on rehabilitation centres and ensure the future of the species.
Featured image credit Steve Slater, CC BY 2.0