Indonesia Airport Confiscates Hundreds of Endangered Pig-Nose Turtles

First Posted: Apr 01, 2013 02:21 PM EDT

Reptiles are a popular commodity, apparently. Indonesian authorities have confiscated hundreds of endangered pig-nosed turtles at an airport in the capital. This comes only a few days after a smuggler was found to have over 10 percent of the ploughshare tortoise population stuffed into a bag.

The pig-nose turtle can be found in the freshwater streams, lagoons and rivers of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Known for their distinctive large nostrils at the tips of their long snouts, these turtles are somewhat of a living fossil. They're the last members of a family that was once widespread across the world. Like most freshwater turtles, they have movable digits. However, they also have flipper-like appendages like marine turtles. According to researchers, the species could represent the last living evolutionary link between freshwater and marine turtles.

Since it takes over 20 years for this turtle to reach maturity, it's extremely vulnerable to human-induced threats. Most recently, the pig-nose turtle has faced the mass harvesting of its eggs and capture for the international pet trade. These practices have helped decimate the wild population of turtles.

Now the head of Jakarta's conservation agency Awen Supranata has announced that 687 of these turtles are currently being held at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport. They were first confiscated on March 15, and the person who actually sent the turtles is unknown. However, it's thought that the turtles were either bound for Europe or some Asian countries.

The illegal animal trade has continued to grow, despite crackdowns by various governments. Rhino horns, ivory and live animals have all been found being smuggled into different countries where they're sold on the black market. Experts at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, estimate that illegal wildlife trade runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. While the turtles were rescued in this case, it's likely that the illegal pet trade will continue to encourage people to capture and smuggle endangered animals between countries.

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