Illegal Reptile Trade


How can you help?

  • Please stop buying tortoises, chameleons and other reptiles at the side of the road and report any sightings of this illegal trade to the conservation authorities. When caring individuals see an animal suffering they are often compelled to try and end its distress. But please remember that money fuels this despicable trade, and to stop the cycle it is necessary to stop the demand. Don't let your act of kindness result in the removal of more animals from the wild.
  • Share this information with your family, friends and colleagues.
  • Support our Call of the Wild Project and join us in addressing this issue.

Thank you for being a Warrior for Reptiles.
Together we make a difference.

Stop the Illegal Reptile Trade


Destroying our natural heritage and causing suffering

It is ILLEGAL to own, keep, breed, buy, sell or transport any indigenous reptile without a valid permit issued by the relevant nature conservation authorities.

Yet despite this fact, anyone who has driven the R510 to Sun City will probably have noticed hawkers at the road intersections offering tortoises and chameleons for sale. These reptiles have been ILLEGALLY removed from their natural habitats, and conservation authorities in the North West Province face a constant battle in enforcing the law and bringing perpetrators to book.

Tortoises and chameleons are captured by local people and kept in very poor conditions without food or water. They face days, weeks or months of deprivation waiting for a vehicle to stop and for money to exchange hands. Many will die before they are sold. Others will die later from stress. More still will succumb without the necessary skill required for the long-term care of these complex creatures.

Sadly the exchange of money for these animals fuels the illegal trade and more animals are removed from the veld by the dealers to supply to often well-meaning travellers.

The illegal traders are ever alert to possible patrols by nature conservation officials and should an official be seen approaching, this is quickly communicated by means of cellular phones. The criminals run off into the veld with their reptile prisoners before arrests can be made and the rescue of animals can take place. These people are often armed and dangerous.

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) is pleased to report that it has a sound working relationship with the North West Province Nature Conservation Department, and together is tackling this huge problem, which is not only prevalent on the R510 but also along other roadways.


Case Study #1
In 2012 two Inspectors from the national Wildlife Protection Unit spearheaded a successful joint sting operation with North West nature conservation and the SAPS. The sting operation resulted in the successful arrest of two repeat offenders, and the rescue of three flap-necked chameleons and a leopard tortoise.

Case Study #2
In 2014, during a joint sting operation swooped down on street vendors along the R556 en route to Sun City/Pilanesberg. Two chameleons and nine tortoises were recovered from the vendors and two suspects were arrested at two different intersections. Unfortunately more suspects managed to escape by running into the veld.

Caste Study #3
In 2015, NSPCA staff, along with members of the SAPS K9 Unit recently conducted a raid near Sun City in North West targeting those involved in the illegal sale of indigenous wildlife to members of the public.

Five suspects were arrested during the raid and a number of animals were recovered.


Unfortunately, a search of the surrounding area revealed numerous casualties of the trade, containers with dead reptiles were found discarded in the bushes. The confiscated reptiles were rushed off to a nearby veterinarian for treatment and have since been rehabilitated and released.


Updated: 26 February 2016

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