Seizure underscores scale of illegal turtle trade


Some of more than 15,000 trafficked turtles discovered in May in Mexico’s Benito Juárez International Airport. (Photo courtesy of Profepa)

Last May, customs inspectors at Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport discovered some surprising cargo. Opening China-bound crates, they found over 15,000, mostly live specimens of four freshwater turtle species from southern Mexico and Central America. Among these were species ostensibly protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). Turtle conservationists took note, already alarmed by what they describe as a worrisome trend in the illegal global turtle trade in which small-scale poaching has given way to massive operations bearing more than a passing resemblance to organized crime. Biologist James Liu, associate director of the California-based Turtle Conservancy, says traffickers have enlisted “entire villages” in some cases to capture chelonians (turtles and tortoises). These are then shipped to China and other lucrative markets, most profitably for sale as pets. Latin America is a prime source of the coveted creatures... [Log in to read more]

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