Advice on tortoises fromBaby tortoise

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Acquiring a tortoise is exciting! You know your new pet will bring you joy and love for many years to come – however, there’s so much to consider, and conducting research prior to purchase can be confusing. Here we cover two important topics which we hope you will find useful - CITES legislation, plus tortoise identity and security.

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Checking whether your tortoise is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list is essential. If your tortoise is listed on Annex A under European Union regulations, then the person selling you the tortoise must hold an Article 10 Certificate. 

Tortoise lawAccording to the Gov.UK website, the most commonly traded tortoises on the list are Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni); the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) and the marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata). Article 10 Certificates are issued to authorise offering for sale, the sale of and the display for commercial purposes of Annex A species.

There are two types of certificate that the vendor may hold in relation to a tortoise listed on this annex, depending on which set of guidelines the pet meets. These are either a Specimen Specific Certificate or a Transaction Specific Certificate. A Specimen Specific Certificate accompanies the pet for the rest of its life, and will be passed to you by the vendor.  You should always keep this document in a safe place. 

In contrast, a Transaction Specific Certificate will not be passed to you. You should ensure that you see it, however, as it is proof of the lawful acquisition of the pet.  It’s recommended that you also take a copy, ensuring the reference number is visible. Also, be aware that CITES regulations and guidelines can change, so it’s important that you check the latest updates on the Gov.UK website.

To obtain a tortoise insurance quote, contact ExoticDirect here.

Tortoise identity and security

Once you’ve purchased your tortoise, it’s a good idea to compile detailed records of its distinguishing features. It’s recommended that you take photographs of its front, back and sides including the plastron, which is the underside of the tortoise.

The markings on the plastron are completely unique to each tortoise, and can help to identify it in the same way that our fingerprints do for us. This, together with photographs of its carapace (which is the upper shell), can help to identify your tortoise beyond all doubt, if you need to confirm this at any stage.

Photos should be taken annually, signed, dated and stored in a safe place. Always print copies out, rather than just storing them on a memory card for example.

You should never attempt to mark your tortoise, especially with paint, nail varnish, a microdot or UV pen, as markers can be rubbed off. Additionally, they can be perceived as foreign objects by your tortoise or by other tortoises, and could adversely affect your tortoise’s health.   


Microchipping tortoises is like fingerprintingJohn Hayward, who runs the National Theft Register for lost, found or stolen animals, strongly advises that you should have your tortoise microchipped, even if it is not a species listed on Annex A. Microchipping is a permanent, individual method of identification, and will provide irrefutable evidence in terms of identifying your pet should it be lost or stolen.

There are now mini microchips available, which are less invasive. These are endorsed by the government department DEFRA and supported by specialist exotic vets.

ExoticDirect policies can cover loss of your tortoise, in the unfortunate event of it being lost or stolen. Find out more by clicking on this link.


Reported losses of tortoises usually rise in the summer when tortoises are outside in owners' gardens, and the opportunity for theft increases. It’s important to ensure that your tortoise is kept in a secured area and that it is within sight. 

John Hayward recommends that your tortoise is additionally protected by the installation of infra-red beam systems, passive infrared systems (PIRs) as shown right, and movement detectors. Beam systems can be linked to a ‘Dialout’ unit that will call your mobile phone should the beam be broken. Systems can also be linked to alarms, lighting, CCTV, your computer or television.

Tortoises can also be stolen from sheds, garages and outbuildings, especially during periods of hibernation. John recommends that doors and windows are protected by good quality high tensile close-shackled padlocks and padbars. John also recommends steel sheeted backings to doors, for extra protection. In addition, he suggests the use of shed alarms fitted to doors and windows, internal security lighting and PIRs.

Registering with a vet

You should ensure that you register your tortoise with a specialist vet as soon as possible.  Specialist vets may be harder to find that you think, and can be located many miles away from where you live.  Don’t leave it until your tortoise is poorly.

If you visit a vet that doesn’t specialise in treating reptiles such as tortoises, then you may be charged referral fees which can be expensive. This can add to an already stressful time. You should also consider pet insurance, to help cover the cost of unexpected vet fees. 

ExoticDirect offer three different policy types, to suit your budget and requirements.  Pet insurance can offer you peace of mind, enabling you to focus on the appropriate treatment for your tortoise. Click here for more information.

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