Page last updated at 19:02 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Customs' 4,000 exotic reptiles seizures revealed

Baby Caiman crocodiles
In the past four years 220 caiman crocodiles have been seized

UK customs officials have seized 4,040 endangered reptiles - including 1,000 tortoises - in the past four years, a parliamentary question has revealed.

Wildlife minister Huw Irranca-Davies revealed the seizures in response to a question by Tory MP Andrew Rosindell.

All the animals were seized by HM Revenue and Customs under an international agreement banning the trade in endangered species, he said.

Officials also seized 322 endangered birds over the same period.

Home Office Minister Phil Woolas revealed the second set of figures in reply to a separate Commons question from Mr Rosindell.

Mr Irranca-Davies also revealed a breakdown of all the seizures made under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in the past four years.

In 2005-6, the total of animals seized was 1,336 - including 501 leopard tortoises, 220 caimans - a reptile related to the crocodile - 149 royal pythons and 170 terrapins - in 27 seizures.

This compared with 1,313 creatures in 2006-7 - including 325 terrapins, 294 spiny tailed lizards and 138 leopard tortoises - found in 38 seizures.

In 2007-8, a total of 21 seizures resulted in 347 reptiles being recovered, including 200 tortoises.

And in 2008-9, 1,044 specimens - including 356 turtles, 111 leopard tortoises, 100 hingeback tortoises and 98 spiny-tailed lizards - were found in 32 seizures.

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