The food chain and environment safety branch of SPF Santé Publique, in cooperation with the local police of Courtrai, seized 334 Moorish land turtles on September 7th, announced SPF Santé Publique Tuesday in a communiqué. These turtles were captured in Morocco, and were to be sold in Belgium. The illegal trade of animal and plant species is presently the topic of a summit in South Africa organized by the CITES Convention (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna).
These animals threatened with extinction were captured in their natural habitats in Morocco in order to be sold illegally in Belgium. “Illegal capture of this dimension threatens the population of turtles at the local level,” stated SPF Santé Publique.
The turtles were found in a garage. They are Moorish land tortoises protected by the CITES Convention. Turtles captured in nature may not be sold in Belgium. Only those raised in Belgium and the European Union, with an electronic chip, may obtain a certificate for sale. The case was therefore forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office with an application for legal review.
“This case clearly shows the true need for better control of the illegal trade in endangered species at the international level,” added SPF Santé Publique. The summit organized in South Africa in the sphere of the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) seeks to strengthen control of traffic of animal and plant species.
The CITES Convention regulates international trade in endangered animal and plant species since 1975. The convention presently has 183 members. All European Union Member States are parties. Belgium has been a member since 1984. The convention protects 5,000 animal species and 28,000 plant species.