KEEPING a tortoise was an Almeria tradition, but no longer. Changes in the law that came into effect on July 1 turned keeping a “Tortuga mora” or “spur-thighed tortoise” as a pet into a criminal offence. In extreme cases this is now punishable with a prison term of up to two years.
According to the Junta de Andalucia, the Environment department collected 2,775 tortoises between July and the end of October. Although 67 per cent were Almeria-bred tortoises, 33 per cent belonged to the same species but had been imported.
The 1,568 handed-in native tortoises were examined by vets from the Las Almohallas wildlife rehabilitation centre (CREA) in Velez Blanco. Later they were released in different zones of Sierra Cabrera where the tortoise population were wiped out by a series of forest fires some years ago.
Some of the remainder, apart from 122 that had to be put down owing to ill health, were taken to the Las Almohallas as well as CREA centres in other provinces.