Illegal trade in the spur-thighed tortoise on internet is continuing
Total number of the spur-thighed tortoise is estimated only at several tens of thousands of individuals now, reducing and fragmentation of its range continues as a result of development of infrastructure on the Black Sea coast.
In recent years illegal trade of the Greek tortoise has moved from pet-shops and the markets to e-commerce platforms. In 2017 nature protection activists have revealed more than 10 similar announcements on the internet. Usually sellers are from Anapa, Novorossiysk, and Gelendzhik. Key habitats of the species are located near these cities. Only few sellers voluntarily transfer tortoises for the subsequent rehabilitation and return to natural habitats after notification by activists. Most cases it is necessary to ask for the help of the police.
Valery Shmunk, director of Regional office "Russian Caucasus" of WWF-Russia: "We are convinced that it is critical to raise awareness of local communities for spur-thighed tortoise conservation and rapid response of law enforcement agencies to the facts of illegal trade of the species will help to keep this unique animal".
Testudo graeca nikolskii is a subspecies of the spur-thighed tortoise, or Greek tortoise, inhabiting the foothills of the Black Sea coast of Western Caucasus within Krasnodar Region and the Republic of Abkhazia. The subspecies is listed as a vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals; in the Appendix II of the CITES; in the Appendix II of the Bern convention; in the Red List of the Russian Federation; in the regional Red Lists of Krasnodar Region and the Republic of Dagestan. Spur-thighed tortoises are commonly traded as pets, despite the illegality of this trade. According to scientific experts, the spur-thighed tortoise – one of the most vulnerable and threatened species of reptiles in the territory of the Russian Federation.