B.C. man fined $3,000 for illegally shipping tortoise to Sask.
A 39-year-old man from Cranbrook, B.C. was slapped with a $3,000 fine for illegally shipping a Greek Tortoise to a buyer in Saskatoon a month after the animal was added to the province’s restricted species list.
Nelson Williamson pleaded guilty to transporting the animal between provinces — a contravention under the federal Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).
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Appearing by phone in Saskatoon provincial court on Wednesday, Williamson said he did not know the Saskatchewan government had added the Greek Tortoise (a small to medium-sized turtle also known as the Spur-Thighed Tortoise) to the Captive Wildlife Regulations a month before he shipped the tortoise in July 2021.
His lawyer, Jared Aumiller, said the provincial regulation was updated to comply with WAPPRIITA. Animals added to the list are not considered “overtly dangerous” but pose other risks.
“The growing interest in exotic wildlife as pets and the rehabilitation of native species has raised concerns regarding public safety, animal welfare and increased focus on maintaining the integrity of the province’s ecosystems. The amended regulations focus on areas of highest risk to people and the environment,” according to the provincial government’s website.
In court, Aumiller noted the tortoise is not an endangered species.
“I’m not exactly sure why the Greek Tortoise was included in the amendments,” he said.
Aumiller argued for a lower fine than the federal Crown’s proposed amount of $5,000, saying his client has since stopped his “passion project” of breeding and selling tortoises.
Williamson said his business’s bank account got shut down during the investigation, and he felt he was being unnecessarily treated like a criminal. He said neither the buyer nor the reptile shipping company he regularly used were aware of the rule change, either.
However, he took responsibility for transporting the tortoise.
“The burden would have been on Mr. Williamson to prove he did his ‘due diligence’ in keeping up to date with the laws and regulations,” Aumiller said.
The tortoise was seized from the buyer in January 2022 after the Crown requested documents from the shipping company — Reptile Express — concerning “potential importations into Saskatchewan which may contravene (the act).”
Aumiller said his client sold the tortoise for approximately $600. Judge James Plemel ordered Williamson to pay $906.25 in vet bills in addition to his $3,000 fine.
According to the Government of Canada’s website, WAPPRIITA’s purpose “is to protect Canadian and foreign species of animals and plants that may be at risk of overexploitation due to illegal trade and also to safeguard Canadian ecosystems from the introduction of species considered to be harmful. It accomplishes these objectives by controlling the international trade and interprovincial transport of certain wild animals and plants, as well as their parts and derivatives.”
Canada implemented WAPPRIITA to comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
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