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Man goes on trial for selling endangered radiated and African spurred tortoises in Chengdu, China

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Prosecution calls for the defendant to pay a 10,000 yuan fine, issue a public apology on the city media, and also pay the costs of keeping the tortoises for the duration of the animals' lifetimes.

In Sichuan capital Chengdu, China, a defendant went before Wuhou District Court in December 2020 for buying and selling a radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) and African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata ), reports a Chinese news site, quoting the original report by Beijing News.

Radiated tortoises, native to Madagascar are prized by collectors. The species is listed in CITES Appendix I and in China is classified as Class I (the term"category" is also used instead of "class") endangered species. African spurred tortoise (CITES Appendix II) is native the the Sahara and the Sahel regions of Africa, and is the third largest extant tortoise species. In China the species is listed as Class II endangered species.

According to the current convention, a species not found in China, such as radiated tortoise, is classed as Category I is it is included into CITES Appendix I, and Category II, if listed in CITES Appendix II.

In 2017 the defendant purchased on-line one African spurred tortoise for 1,750 yuan (281 USD). He then gave away the tortoise as a gift. In 2018 the defendant then purchased one radiated tortoise on-line for 6,700 yuan (1037 USD). In 2019 he was arrested when trying to sell it.

Prosecutors brought both criminal charges against the defendant, as well as additional administrative charges, calling for the sentence to include public apology on city media, paying for the cost of the keep of the animals until the day of their death, and pay a penalty of 10,000 yuan for "damaging environmental resources".

The verdict of the case has not yet been announced.

African spurred tortoises can live for almost 200 years, so paying for the upkeep of one tortoise may prove very costly to the defendant.

Until recently, advertisements for selling endangered reptiles were posted openly on Chinese Internet, but the recent crackdown decimated the trade. Now the dedicated collectors are gone "di xia" (underground), according to conservationists, and no longer advertise openly on-line.

SVIS-Initiative provides a SVIS for radiated tortoise. The species is commonly trafficked through Hong Kong SAR and last year a smuggler received a two-year sentence for smuggling 55 radiated tortoises into Hong Kong.

China is now updating and revising the list of nationally protected species as well as (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), it's animal trade regulations.



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