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Shipping Chelonia- A Safe and Reliable Technique - Chris Tabaka DVM

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Questions on methods utilized for shipping turtles and tortoises from one place to another are amongst the most common questions we receive at the World Chelonian Trust.  Because of this, I have assembled the following pictorial commentary on the method that I like to utilize.  The animals being shipped in this situation are Heosemys spinosa, otherwise known as the spiny hill turtle.  They were rescued from certain death by Kadoorie Farms in Hong Kong and the Turtle Survival Alliance and after months and months of intensive care were being shipped onward to their new homes.  






The first thing one needs is a styrofoam box.  The styrofoam helps maintain a relatively consistent temperature for the animals while they are being shipped.



Next, find a cardboard box in which the styrofoam box fits tightly.  The outer cardboard box acts as another layer of protection, padding, and structure  for the styrofoam box.







The next thing one needs is a pillowcase or snake bag.  These help keep the animals stationary and upright during their flight so they don't flip themselves over or start clawing through the various boxes. 



Along with the pillowcase or snake bag, I would recommend obtaining some zip ties as well to seal each bag securely.



Next, take the turtle and slide it into the bag.  It should have enough room to stretch it's legs out but not enough room to be able to turn itself over during shipment.  Remember, this is being done for the animal's safety.






And thus you end up with turtles in bags in the bottom of the styrofoam box.







Add in some shredded newspaper to help prevent shifting of the animals during transport yet to allow air flow.



Close up the box.



Apply stickers and/or write in large letters on the box.  I will occasionally write the words "turtle" or "tortoise" as well on the box.  While the general public fears snakes immensely, those that fear a turtle or tortoise are few and far between!





And thus the package is ready to be sent off.


There are a variety of options in terms of shipping carriers.  The most commonly utilized is Airborne Express.  Another option is UPS.  Both of these offer the ability to track the animals.  I would STRONGLY recommend that not only should the shipper track the animals but the receiver should have the shipping number in hand and track them as well.  While both companies have good track records, mistakes do occasionally happen and the sooner both parties know about it, the sooner something can be done.  Delta Dash and other  airlines are an ideal shipping method as well (when there is a direct flight- be wary of transfers) but most of the airlines will no longer take on new customers so this is not an option for most.   Federal Express is NOT an option as it is against their policy to ship live animals.


Temperatures at the receiving end, shipping end, and all points in between should be monitored before shipping to be sure the animal will not go through extremes.


One last note on the subject of shipping.  All shipments should take place from Monday through Wednesday to arrive the next morning.  Shipments sent on Thursday to arrive Friday leave no margin for error if there is a shipping error and could result in animals being lost through the weekend.


Utilizing these methods, the worst of one's  shipping worries can be ameliorated and animals sent safely and effectively to their new homes.
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