The USDA has prohibited, until further notice, the importation of certain land tortoises and the interstate movement of certain African tortoises. The action was in response to the recent threat of cowdriosis (heartwater disease) in Florida. Exotic ticks known to be vectors of cowdriosis were found on an imported tortoise in May 1999 and were later determined to be carrying Cowdria ruminantium (see JAVMA, March 1, 2000).
All species and subspecies of leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis), African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata), and Bell's hingeback tortoise (Kinixys belliana) are prohibited from being imported into the United States or moved interstate under this regulation.
APHIS said the ban will be lifted when effective treatment and biosecurity protocols for tortoises are established, and when tortoises and other reptiles already in the United States have been effectively treated for exotic ticks, and when all exotic ticks have been eradicated. Fortunately, to date there have been no reports of the ticks transmitting the disease to livestock.