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8 March 1999
A live tortoise was intercepted at Christchurch International Airport in mislaid luggage from a flight from Singapore last Saturday night (27 February).
The tortoise was found during inspection of mishandled luggage from a previous flight.
The alleged owner of the bag had arrived on an earlier flight, claimed his other luggage but did not advise the airline that he was missing the bag containing the
tortoise. He has been interviewed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Enforcement Unit and has denied any knowledge of the tortoise.
MAF Quarantine Service staff alerted the Department of Conservation in case the tortoise was an endangered species, which it turned out not to be.
It is MAF policy - wherever possible - to return intercepted animals illegally brought into New Zealand to their country of origin. For example, another tortoise smuggled in from Russia was returned to that country last month.
However, in this case no-one claimed responsibility for trying to bring the tortoise in, so there was no-one to return it to.
It is a species new to New Zealand, so it cannot be allowed into the country without permission from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New
MAF understands a private zoo is interested in taking the tortoise and is talking to ERMA New Zealand about the necessary steps to bring it in legally.
Kerry Mulqueen, National Manager, Import Management, MAF Regulatory Authority
04-498 9624/025- 448 438