Herpetologist Michael Mates and his partner Carol Wormley, both 42 and from Walthamstow, east London, returned from Corfu with the animals hidden in luggage, magistrates in Harlow, Essex, were told.Both were ordered to carry out unpaid work and banned from keeping reptiles for 10 years after admitting breaking laws designed to protect wildlife. Prosecutor Angela Hughes said the Hermann’s Tortoises had been taken from their natural habitat in Corfu then packed in bags and suitcases. She said one was taped to stop it moving around.
Miss Hughes said the couple kept the creatures in a hotel room before taking them on to a plane and flying to Stansted.She told the court that both were arrested when they landed at the airport in July.Magistrates were told that Gates was a herpetologist who had a collection of reptiles.Jeremy Sirrell, for Gates, said his client had been trying to rescue the tortoises after seeing them treated cruelly and had not intended to sell them.
Mr Sirrell said while on holiday Gates had picked up tortoises he saw being kicked around by boys, then bought more from a ”woman selling flowers”.He said Gates had been ”stupid” by deciding to bring the tortoises home instead of going through proper channels.David Dadds, for Wormley, said his client had ”gone along” with Gates’ wishes and had not understood that what she was doing was wrong.
Gates, who worked as a driver, admitted causing unnecessary suffering, failing to ensure animals’ needs were met and transporting live animals taken from the wild. He was ordered to carrying out 150 hours of unpaid work. Wormley, who worked in the retail industry, admitted failing to ensure animals’ needs were met and transporting live animals taken from the wild. She was ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.