Somalia has warned against illegal hunting and sale of tortoises.
The caution comes amid reports of rise in hunting of the reptiles in Puntland and Hirshabelle States, two semi-autonomous regions in northern and central Somalia, respectively.
“Tortoises dwelling in our bushes are some of the rare animals spared from the ravages of human activities,” said the director general at Puntland’s ministry of Environment Mr Abdiaziz Nur Elmi.
“Anyone found guilty of hunting the tortoises will face the full force of the law,” he warned.
“All living creatures in Puntland have the right to life and protection. We decisively warn against the hunting of the tortoises,” he added.
Hirshabelle authorities say the tortoises are hunted for pet trade.
“We have received reports that many people are roaming in the rural areas, looking for tortoises, which we are against,” said Mr Mohamed Abdi Awale, Mahas district commissioner in Hirshabelle.
“My administration will never tolerate the eradication of the tortoises and anyone seen [hunting] will be punished,” Mr Awale added.
The reptiles found in Somalia are the leopard tortoises which favour semi-arid, thorny to grassland habitats.
The species is also found in other eastern and southern Africa countries, from Sudan to South Africa.
The leopard tortoise is one of the most common species in pet trade.
In some countries the tortoises are bred in captivity for export.
The leopard tortoise species is listed in Appendix II of CITES since 1975 in which trade must be controlled to protect it from extinction.