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19 March 1999
Darryl the box turtle is off to the Peoples Republic of China and his hometown of Shanghai.
In further discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Enforcement Unit, the person in whose luggage he was originally found at Christchurch International Airport has supplied details of where Darryl came from. He was found in unclaimed luggage off a flight from Singapore a couple of weeks ago.
The decision to send him home is consistent with MAF’s policy of -wherever possible - returning intercepted animals illegally brought into New Zealand to their country of origin. As a species new to New Zealand, he could not be imported or held in the country without permission from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand), which he did not have.
As is an offence to hold a new species under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, MAF could not keep in New Zealand. Darryl also posed a potential biosecurity risk, as turtles are often carriers of bacteria such as salmonella.
A private zoo in Christchurch planned to apply to ERMA New Zealand for him to be allowed into New Zealand legally, but despite inquiries by MAF, no overseas zoo could be found to accept him while the application was heard.
The choice was therefore to either put him down humanely, or export him to his country of origin.
The private Christchurch zoo, which received generous public donations to assist with the cost of his application, can still apply to ERMA New Zealand to import a turtle of the same species as Darryl - but the it is not likely to be the original Darryl.
MAF’s National Manager of Import Management, Dr Kerry Mulqueen, said it was important that New Zealand maintained a consistent policy on the introduction of new species. "We can’t have one set of rules for species such as turtles which people tend to think are cute, and another for those generally considered less appealing", he said. "New Zealand’s biosecurity, human and animal health and the environment are at stake here, and we must make decisions on the basis of clearly defined guidelines and procedures."
Media inquiries to:
Kerry Mulqueen, National Manager, Import Management,
MAF Regulatory Authority 04-498 9624/025 448 438