Tortoise Law 

Are you on the right side of it?

The following will give you a better understanding of the current law on tortoise sales and keeping as pets.

All tortoise species are listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and are sub-divided into Annexes. Species listed in Annex B require no sales certificate (referred to as a License) to purchase or to sell. All species listed in Annex A require a sales certificate within the E.U.

There are two types of sales certificates, one is called a “Transaction Article 10 Certificate” and the other is called a “Specimen Specific Article 10 Certificate”.

Transaction Article 10 Certificates (Updated Information)

Transaction Article 10 Certificates are issued to specimens that are too small to be microchipped (under 60 mm plastron length) and therefore cannot be identified as an individual. The certificate is only valid to the person named in box one and no other person has the legal right to use this certificate. It is illegal to sell Annex A species with a Transaction Article 10 certificate which has a different name and address in box one to the person selling it. If you pass the specimen to another person the certificate must be sent back to DEFRA and a photocopy given to the new keeper clearly marked “Copy for information only”.

If you are not intending to sell the specimen you may keep the certificate in the seller’s name but will have to change it at a later date if you decide to sell it.

Specimen Specific Article 10 Certificates

Are only issued to specimens that have been microchipped (over 60 mm plastron length) and, therefore, can be identified as an individual. These certificates can be passed on to new owners without changing the name and address in box one.

Beware of other E.U. Transaction Certificates

You can purchase tortoises in the U.K. with certificates issued by another E.U. member state provided it’s a Specimen Specific Article 10 Certificate and the specimen has been microchipped. However, it is illegal to buy or sell a tortoise with a Transaction Certificate issued by another E.U. member state from an individual other than the person named in box one of the certificate. Many illegal traders in the U.K. are selling tortoises with German Transaction certificates which is illegal. The trader must apply to DEFRA to have these certificates re-issued to there own name before offering them for sale.

In Germany, they have been issuing certificates with a photo of the tortoise on it claiming it is a form of identification and issuing a Specimen Specific Article 10 Certificate. It has now been agreed at the last EC CITES Committee meeting that photos will not be considered as a valid form of ID, therefore these certificates are transaction certificates and the seller must by law have them changed to there name before offering them for sale.

Before buying a tortoise check the certificates which are being used and make sure it is in the seller’s name unless it is a Specimen Specific Article 10 Certificate which will show the microchip number in box 4. If you suspect that a tortoise is being sold illegally with incorrect papers or no papers at all you should report them to DEFRA and help discourage the illegal trade in tortoises.

You can contact DEFRA at;

General Enquiries Tel: 0117 372 8168 – Fax: 0117 372 8206 – E-mail:

The list below shows the most common species being offered for sale in the U.K. and other E.U. member states.


Hermann tortoise Testudo hermanni Annex A Certificate required
Spur-thighed tortoise Testudo graeca Annex A Certificate required
Marginated tortoise Testudo marginata Annex A Certificate required
Horsfield tortoise Testudo horsfieldi Annex B Not required
Leopard tortoise Geochelone pardalis Annex B Not required
Sulcata tortoise Geochelone sulcata Annex B Not required
Indian star tortoise Geochelone elegans Annex A Certificate required
Red footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria Annex B Not required

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