This film is part of Free

Friend of the Little Tortoises

Kay Gray of Exmouth is interviewed about her campaign to stop the transportation of tortoises.

News 1961 5 mins

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Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Kay Gray of Exmouth is leading a campaign to stop live tortoise importation. The author of booklets on tortoise care is concerned about the mass importation, transportation and sale of tortoises. Many very young tortoises arrive dead or in poor condition and the majority do not survive their first winter hibernation. Common species of tortoise like Testudo graeca the Spur-thighed tortoise and Testudo hermanni Hermann’s tortoise are imported into the UK from Europe.

Imports of Mediterranean tortoises led to a Europe-wide ban in 1984 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) following growing public pressure by groups such as the British Chelonia Group (BCG) which set up in Bristol in 1976. Miss Gray’s campaign caught the attention of the national press and parliament and she was dubbed friend of the little tortoises. Today illegal transportation of exotic animals leads to unwanted pets and transmission of diseases such as salmonella and tuberculosis. Reverse zoonosis where animals are exposed to human illnesses may also occur. Most tortoises cannot be sold without a Transaction Specific or a Specimen Specific certificate.