SIX little tortoises are the newest lifelong residents at Wisbech shop DK Reptiles.
The marginated and spur-thigh tortoises, which were the size of 50p coins when they arrived, have been at the shop for almost two years, but have only just been unveiled to the public after being illegally imported.
Staff at DK had to keep quiet about the animals while an investigation was carried out by wildlife officers from Cumbria Police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Animal Health department.
Robert Struthers, the owner of online reptile trading firm Carlisle Tortoise, was sentenced to a 24-week jail term suspended for two years, 250 hours unpaid work and had to pay £1,200 costs for the illegal trade of endangered tortoises.
DK owner David Johnson said they bought a total of 12 tortoises from the company, which they found in a reptile magazine and believed to be a reputable firm.
When the tortoises arrived, some of them had no Article 10 paperwork with them, which is a form of identification.
After getting different excuses from Struthers about the paperwork, David contacted DEFRA with their suspicions about the company. It emerged there was no paperwork for the animals.
DK were allowed to keep the tortoises, but the shop cannot sell them and the animals can’t leave the premises.
David said they plan to run an adoption scheme, where people sponsor them, as the shop will have responsibility for them for the rest of their lives – possibly 80 to 100 years.