Nearly 1,500 Live Turtles Found in Smugglers' Luggage

Authorities believe the protected reptiles were bound for illegal pet markets

By Emily Feldman
|  Thursday, Jan 26, 2012  |  Updated 8:51 AM PDT
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Two suitcases stuffed with 1,495 live pig-nosed turtles were intercepted at an Indonesian airport Wednesday.

The reptiles were bound for Jakarta, the heart of the country's animal black market, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife watchdog group.

"The authorities involved in intercepting this shipment are to be congratulated," Chris Shepherd, a TRAFFIC director, said in a statement. "However the fact that dealers continue to smuggle shipments of this size indicates a serious problem in Indonesia, where illegal reptile trade is rife."

The popular pets, which are sometimes consumed as meat, are a threatened species native to Indonesia. While Indonesian law bars the export of pig-nosed turtles, smugglers have managed to ship them out in large numbers. Many wind up in the pet markets of East Asia and are often hidden in shipment of tropical fish. 

In 2010, authorities intercepted six Hong Kong-bound containers filled will nearly 3,500 pig-nosed turtles, according to MSNBC. Last October, more than 600 were returned to Indonesia after being discovered overseas.

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