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USDA Prohibits the Importation of Certain Land Tortoises

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2000 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is prohibiting, until further notice, the importation of certain land tortoises.

This interim rule also prohibits the interstate movement of certain African tortoises.

“These emergency actions are necessary because these tortoises, which are regularly imported into the United States and are common in U.S. pet trade, have been found to harbor exotic ticks known to be vectors of heartwater disease,” said Alfonso Torres, deputy administrator for veterinary services with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a part of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area.

All species and subspecies of leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis),African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata), and Bell's hingeback tortoise (Kinixys belliana) are prohibited from being imported into the United States or moved interstate under this regulation.

APHIS is working to establish effective treatment and biosecurity protocols for tortoises that will remove the threat of heartwater disease. When such protocols and treatments are established and when tortoises and other reptiles already in the United States have been effectively treated for exotic ticks and all exotic ticks are eradicated, the ban on the importation of these tortoises, as well as the ban on their interstate movement, will be lifted.

Until that time, however, these actions will provide protection against an outbreak of heartwater disease in domestic and wild populations of ruminants in the United States. Heartwater disease is an acute, infectious disease of ruminants, including cattle, sheep, goats, white-tailed deer, and antelope. This disease has a 60 percent or greater mortality rate in livestock and a 90 percent or greater mortality rate in white-tailed deer.

For more information, contact David Wilson, senior staff entomologist, emergency programs, VS, APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 41, Riverdale, Md. 20737,(301) 734-8073.

Notice of this action is scheduled to appear in the March 22 Federal Register and becomes effective upon publication. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register, and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS rules, are available on the Internet at

View Full Text of Rule Federal Register: March 22, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 56).

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before May 22. Please send an original and three copies to
Docket No. 00-016-1, Regulatory
Hallie Pickhardt (301) 734-5175
Jerry Redding (202) 720-6959