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12 March 1999
'Darryl' the box turtle is turning into something of a jetsetter.
Darryl, as he was dubbed by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staff who took him into custody, was an illegal immigrant, found at Christchurch International Airport in mishandled luggage off a flight from Singapore a couple of weeks ago.
It is MAF policy - wherever possible - to return intercepted animals illegally brought into New Zealand to their country of origin. However, in this case no-one claimed responsibility for trying to bring him in, so there was no-one to return him to at home.
Darryl's fate was in the balance. As a species new to New Zealand, he cannot be imported or held in the country without permission from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand), which he does not currently have.
It is an offence to hold a new species under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996. He also posed a potential biosecurity risk, as turtles are often carriers of bacteria such as salmonella. Thus Darryl cannot remain in New Zealand.
A Christchurch zoo has begun discussions with ERMA about the possibility of importing him. His plight has captured the hearts of the public, who donated generously to help the zoo cover cost of the application and other costs.
In the meantime, because it is not legal to keep him in the country, and rather than put him down, MAF has decided to try to find an overseas zoo which is prepared to take him while this importation process is proceeding. The zoo in Christchurch then can proceed to reimport him if permission is given.
Negotiations are now underway to try to find a suitable overseas zoo. Darryl has been sent to Auckland to start the export process.
Media inquiries to:
Kerry Mulqueen, National Manager, Import Management, MAF Regulatory
Authority 04-498 9624/025-448 438
(Please note: Darryl tells us he is a box turtle, not a tortoise as previously stated)