Many tortoises are taken out of their natural habitat each year and kept as pets. This has resulted in the leopard tortoise in particular becoming an endangered species. Keeping a tortoise without a permit from KZN wildlife is illegal. So how do law abiding citizens that are interested in a pet tortoise go about getting a tortoise legally.
Some of you may be familiar with C.R.O.W, the centre for rehabilitation of wildlife, and the important work that they do but what people don’t know is that they care for leopard and hinged tortoises that cannot be released into the wild or allowed to breed. This is due to tortoises having issues with mutations that occur. So essentially, C.R.O.W has to take care of these tortoises for life. These resources can be channeled into rehabilitating other wildlife.
It is possible to adopt these tortoises for free provided that you undergo an inspection and get approval of your permit with KZN Wildlife.
What you need to know before adopting a tortoise
A tortoise is a long term commitment as it’s highly possible that they will outlive you.
With any exotic pet, I use this term loosely as leopard and hinge tortoises are indigenous, special care and husbandry requirements are needed as it’s not like keeping a cat or dog. These requirements are checked during the inspection process by KZN wildlife. For example, if you want to keep a leopard tortoise then you need to have at least 100m2 of space for it in your yard.
These tortoises have grown accustomed to mulberry leaves which is now classified as an invasive species and are cut down regularly by the municipality. You can’t buy them either so getting leaves for your tortoise can be a nightmare.
You are not allowed to breed them. If you want to adopt more than one, you can only adopt males or females but not both. Females get along better than males.
It’s best to speak to CROW and visit their premises so that you understand what’s required to care for the tortoise. Do your own research as well.
The permit application process
Before doing anything, first speak to CROW about adopting the tortoise. Thereafter call KZN Wildlife and get the details of the inspector in your area. Contact the inspector and fill in the application form. Once this is done, they will inspect your premises and give the approval. The annual permit fee will need to be paid and the permit will be issued thereafter. Keep in mind that the permit will need to be renewed at the beginning of each year so it’s pointless applying at the end of the year. You rather wait for the new year and apply for the permit at that time.
Once this is done, send the permit to CROW via email and arrange collection.
If you’re really keen on getting a tortoise and are prepared to put in the work that’s required then go for it.