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Hong Kong seizes 800 endangered pig-nosed turtles

05 october 2011, 18:01
Hong Kong conservationists Tuesday said they had seized nearly 800 endangered pig-nosed turtles smuggled from Indonesia, in the Chinese city's biggest haul in its battle against the illegal pet trade, AFP reports.

The baby reptiles, distinguishable by their fleshy snout-like noses, were confiscated in January and were believed to have been caught from the wild in Indonesia before being brought illegally to Hong Kong.

The record seizure came to light as authorities prepared to release 600 of the surviving turtles, of the total 785, back to their native habitat in Indonesia's remote Papua province.

"It's the first of its kind (of seizure) in Hong Kong in terms of the number and the species," Alfred Wong, an endangered species protection official from the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department, told reporters.

"They are quite popular in the pet trade, that's why they are threatened by the international trade," he said as the baby turtles were being packed into boxes, to be flown to Indonesia on Wednesday.

The pig-nosed turtles were also threatened because the demand for their eggs and meat, but Wong said they were mostly kept as pets in Hong Kong.

Authorities carried out an investigation into how the creatures came to be in Hong Kong and had questioned suspects, but could not charge them because of insufficient evidence, Wong said.

He declined to provide further details including how many suspects were involved or their nationality.

The pig-nosed turtles are listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which imposes international trade restrictions to protect the species from over-exploitation.

The turtles, which were only a few days old when they were rescued, had been kept since then at a privately run conservation farm for care and temporary holding.

They are set to be released into a national park in Merauke, which is located in the southeastern coast of Indonesia's Papua.

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