I first should point out that I’m not a legal boffin, just a tortoise enthusiast, and this is not legal advice, only my findings over the years within the tortoise communities. Everything
With that out the way, below are all my findings on the subject of selling tortoise hatchlings over my 25 years within the tortoise community. My advice would be to use this guide as a base point before moving with your research. Your state may have completely different regulations to the next; however, my guide aims to point you in the right direction. Also, the UK has different rules that you need to follow that hopefully, I can help you with.
Getting a base understanding of selling hatchling tortoises should help you not getting on the wrong side of the law.
When you have hatchlings, and it is legal to own tortoises in your country, then it appears that it is perfectly legal to “gift” tortoise hatchlings away for no money. It seems that this is not classed as a business translation.
You will need paperwork to sell tortoises in some countries, proving that you obtained the tortoise legally. If you had misplaced or never received any paperwork when you purchased your tortoise, gifting your hatchlings may be your only option.
Just be aware that if you attempt to disguise a “gifting,” but you still exchange cash, it will then, in the eyes of most countries, be seen as a business transaction. If it is illegal, then you will be stepping into dangerous waters. If money changes hands, it is a business transaction, and only when no money is exchanged is a gift.
Selling Tortoises in America
When it comes to America, the law can seem a little strange when your first see it more than in a moment. However, in America, the law is a lot easier to understand than that in the UK.
Shelling Tortoise Hatchlings In America
Have you ever heard the saying the “law is an ass”? I feel it was made for selling hatching tortoises.
National law states that no turtle or tortoise with a captive length shell under 4 inches may be sold to the public within the USA.
That all seems reasonable, so why is this “law an ass”? Well, that comes when you hear the reasoning behind it. The fear is that children can put tortoises or turtles this small in their mouth. With this, there is a greater risk of them getting salmonella poisoning with this size of a tortoise.
If you have done your research on tortoises, you will know that tortoises that are bigger than 4 inches are not immune to salmonella. Children don’t need to put a tortoise or turtle in their month to get salmonella poisoning. With this, it is a law that is regularly criticized by many within the tortoise communities. However, I must say that there is little merit in it, and it will have reduced the rate of salmonella poisoning to some degree.
There are some grey areas within different states regarding the 4-inch rule when it comes to private individuals. How it is policed is entirely different from state to state, and what constitutes an individual and what is a business can be different in other states.
A grey area and a big can of worms; if you are in doubt, contact the relevant state department for wildlife/fish/game, who will be more than happy to help you out.
Many people who come to sell hatchlings will wait until their hatchlings are over 4 inches before selling them with such a grey area.
Selling Tortoises In America
It appears from my research that selling more gigantic tortoises nationwide is a much simpler process. Species native to the US can not be bought or sold, and it goes without saying you can not take them from the wild unless you process a special permit.
So the only people within America that own species native to the US are those with a special permit and people within the tortoise cultivation by profession.
There don’t appear to be any rules around non-native species unless they are on the endangered list within their natural habitat. That is why we see many people selling nonnative tortoise species like the Russian tortoise much more than other spieces.
With that said, the 4-inch rule still applies to non-native species.
If you are in doubt after reading this and doing your research, then the safest thing to do is contact your relevant state department for wildlife/fish/game, who will be able to point you in the right direction.
Selling Tortoises in The UK
Staying on the right side of the law in the UK when it comes to selling tortoises takes a little more research than in the US. Below I plan to break down the different aspects you will need to be aware of with other species to keep on the law’s right side.
All tortoise spieces are listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and their species are divided into two Annexes.
Article 10 Annex A Tortoises
If you plan to sell a tortoise that falls in the CITES Annex A group, you will need a certificate within the E.U. failure to obtain the certificate is classed as illegal and will put you on the wrong side of the law.
At the time of writing this article, the following tortoise falls in Article 10 Annex A group:
|Angonoka||Geochelone yniphora||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Berger’s cape tortoise||Homopus bergeri||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Bolson tortoise||Gopherus flavomarginatus||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Egyptian tortoise||Testudo kleinmanni||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Geometric tortoise||Psammobates geometricus||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Hermann tortoise||Testudo hermanni||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise||Pyxis planicauda||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Madagascar spider tortoise||Pyxis arachnoides||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Marginated tortoise||Testudo marginata||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Negev tortoise||Testudo wernei||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Pancake tortoise||Malacochersus tornieri||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Radiated tortoise||Geochelone radiata||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Spur-thighed tortoise||Testudo graeca||Annex A||Certificate required|
|Galapagos Giant Tortoise||Geochelone nigra||Annex A||Certificate required|
As you can see from the list above, some of the most popular tortoises in the UK, like the Hermann tortoise, require a certificate for sale. So if you have hatchlings that you are looking to sell, the chances of you being affected are high.
The next part of being aware of is that there are two forms of certification:
- Transaction Specific Certificate (TSC)
- Species-Specific Certificate (SSC)
Transaction Article 10 Certificates are issued for tortoises that are too small to be microchipped (under 60 mm plastron length). The certificate is only valid for the person named in box one, and no one has the legal right to use it.
It is illegal to sell an Annex A species tortoise to someone not named inbox one of the TSC. If you sell a tortoise to someone, you must send the TSC back to DEFRA with a copy to the owner clearly marked “Copy for information only.” DEFRA will then issue the new owner with all the correct certifications.
Species-Specific Certificate (SSC) is issued when the tortoise can be microchipped (over 60 mm plastron length), so they can be easily identified. With SSC certifications, you can sell your tortoise and pass the SSC to the new owners without changing the name in box one.
If your tortoise is fully SSC licensed and has hatchlings obtaining TSC should be easy, allowing you to sell the hatchlings.
However, if you are unable to prove the province of your tortoise, it is doubtful you will be able to get TSC or SSC certification for them. But you may be able to obtain a breeder’s certificate, which will not allow you to sell the tortoise in question but any related offspring after that.
Article 10 Annex B Tortoises
Next, we have Article 10 Annex B Tortoises that don’t require any certification to be legally sold within the UK.
Annex B breeds at the time of writing include:
|Horsfield tortoise||Testudo horsfieldi||Annex B||Certificate Not required|
|Leopard tortoise||Geochelone pardalis||Annex B||Certificate Not required|
|Sulcata tortoise||Geochelone sulcata||Annex B||Certificate Not required|
|Red-footed tortoise||Geochelone carbonaria||Annex B||Certificate Not required|
Just because these tortoises don’t require a certificate doesn’t make them the easy option. No, in the Uk, they are, in most cases, much harder to look after than the Annex A breeds.
The main reason these tortoises are on this list is down to the fact that they are not endangered within their country of origin.
How Much Will I Get For My Tortoise?
A general question is “how much will I get for my tortoise” or “how much should I charge for my tortoise,” and the answer will come down mainly to the following two factors.
- Your tortoise’s age
- The tortoise breed
Common tortoise breeds such as the Russian tortoise can cost as little as $50 (£70). Hermann’s tortoises are very common and can be found even cheaper. The older these common species get, the more money they are going to cost. A fully grown Russian tortoise will cost on average $200.
Less common species, and we will need to dig deeper in our pockets, and the Indian Star tortoise is one breed that comes to mind. A hatchling Indian Star tortoise will cost around $250 (£200), with adults costing much more, with some running into the thousands.
If you are selling hatchlings within the UK or USA, it is relatively straightforward finding out the price. Check out the reputable suppliers and base your prices on their merits. Your care that you offered your tortoises throughout their early years will allow you to ask for a higher price.
Showing the care you offered, and their diet has been correct will make it easier to sell and fetch a greater price.
Selling Tortoise FAQ
Below we have answered some of the most common questions that we see being asked about selling tortoises outside of what we have covered above.
How much does a baby tortoise cost?
A baby tortoise range between $50 – $200. Common tortoises will be on the low side of the price range with less common like the Indian Star tortoise on the higher end of the scale.
How much does a tortoise cost?
When looking at purchases of a tortoise, the cost will be much less than buying a dog. Depending on the species, you are looking at around $50 – $200 with their enclosure and lighting running to about $200. A tortoise will cost you around $250 – $400, depending on the type of tortoise you buy.
At what age can Tortoises be sold?
If you are buying from a reputable breeder that will not sell, you are a tortoise that is less than three months old. Allow them to see the hatchling is in good health and eating and drinking correctly. Within the US, the size of a hatchling will need to be above 4inch to sell legally.
Do you need a license to breed tortoises?
There are no laws stopping anyone from breeding tortoises. However, if you want to sell the hatchlings in the UK, you will need certification to show that the parents were captive breeds. You can not sell native tortoises in the US, and any other tortoise must be over 4 inches to be sold legally.
Selling tortoise can be a minefield and one that you need to take care of to keep yourself on the right side of the law.
The authorities are there to help so whether you are in the UK or the USA, contact them and ask for help if there is something you are not sure about. They will be more than happy to help, and they can give you excellent advice.
Gifting your tortoise can be the best option in the US, but in the UK, you will take a few more steps than those in the USA. It may be a little frustrating reading that you need to obtain certification, but it is ultimately to protect the tortoise species.