Tortoises on the move again

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Earlier this year, the USDA invoked a ban on the interstate movement of certain land tortoises. The prohibition had been enacted in reaction to an incident in May 1999 in which an imported tortoise in Florida was discovered to be carrying the exotic ticks that are vectors of cowdriosis (heartwater disease).

In July, the USDA lifted the ban on the interstate movement of the leopard tortoise, the African spurred tortoise, and Bell's hingeback tortoise, provided they are accompanied by a health certificate signed by a federal or accredited veterinarian stating that the tortoises have been examined by that veterinarian and found free of ticks.

The health certificate allowing interstate movement will cost between $16 and $25 and help guarantee the acceptability of these animal in international markets. The USDA's primary goal, however, is to prevent the spread of exotic ticks. A ban on importation of these tortoises is still in effect. These latest actions took effect July 17 and were published in the July 21 Federal Register.