tortoise-smuggling

Thailand’s tortoise seizures significant but insufficient follow-up to quash illegal trade

Tortoises and freshwater turtles may be slow movers, but they are being smuggled at lightning speed through Thailand, with close to 19,000 seized in six years. A new TRAFFIC report, Seizures of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Thailand 2008-2013, analyses 53 reported seizures of tortoises and freshwater turtles in Thailand, over half of which took place at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. But while there were numerous seizures, prosecutions moved at a tortoise pace. A third of the seizures resulted in the arrest of a total of 40 suspects, but only six successful prosecutions were recorded. Fines ranging from THB 20,000–2,170,000 (USD620–67,270) and jail terms of 6 months to two…

International smuggling threatens the Holy Grail of the reptile world

An unusual and little-known monitor lizard from Borneo that has captured the interest of reptile collectors is emerging as the latest victim of the global illicit wildlife trade, an investigative report by TRAFFIC warns. Lanthanotus borneensis or the Earless Monitor Lizard had long remained virtually unknown to the outside world due to its subterranean habits and limited distribution in north-western Borneo. Unknown, that is, until recently gaining attention from unscrupulous reptile collectors. Earless Monitor Lizards have no external ear opening, a cylindrical lengthened body covered in scaly tubercles (due to an increased number of vertebrae), small limbs, a prehensile tail, a forked tongue, and small eyes with the lower eyelid…

British turtles are booming

It may take more than a day trip to the coast to see the booming turtle population but the numbers of green turtles on British dependency Ascension Island are booming. The latest survey shows that turtle numbers on the main beaches now total 24,000 nests – an increase of 500% since records began in the 1970’s The increase means that the beaches around the Ascension Island are now the second largest breeding population in the Atlantic Ocean. The future could be even brighter for the turtles and other wildlife as the governor signed in to existence 7 new nature reserves yesterday (28th July 2014) which included 3 main green turtle…

Moldovan police and Interpol break up snake venom gang

Police in Moldova working with Interpol officers have broken up a snake venom smuggling gang that operated between Moldova and Afghanistan. The amount of venom seized in the interception was valued at up to 2.8 million Euros. With closer ties being formed between Moldova and the European Union there is an opportunity for criminal gangs to try and exploit access to a lucrative market. Snake venom is used in the medicinal industry and has a value of between 800 and 2000 euros a gramme on the legitimate market. Using information and co-operation through Interpol the Moldovan authorities conducted a month-long operation in order to set up the sting operation. Moldovan…

Alarming rise in Black Spotted Turtle trade across Asia

Illegal international trade of the Black Spotted Turtle in Asia has escalated over recent years and immediate action is required to stem the flow, a new TRAFFIC report has found. The attractive spotted visage of the Black Spotted Turtle, Geoclemys hamiltonii, may well be its downfall. The species is known to be traded for meat, medicine and pets, although TRAFFIC’s research attributes the sudden rise in demand to the exotic pet trade. Over 1,960 animals were seized between January 2008 and March 2014. Of these, 95 per cent were confiscated in the final 15 months of that period. A seizure of another 230 turtles on May 14th underscored the seriousness…

Heathrow wildlife traffickers jailed for 12 months

2 Romanian women who were caught trying to smuggle 13 endangered iguanas through Heathrow airport have been jailed for 12 months. The women were caught during border checks at Terminal 5 on 3rd February. The discovery was made as the women transferred from their Bahamas flight to their connection to Dosseldorf in Germany. Border Force officers found the 13 iguanas stuffed in socks in suitcases. 12 of the reptiles had survived while 1 had died during transit. Romanian nationals Angla-Alina Bita, 26, and Vitora-Oliva Bucsa, 24, were arrested by officers. The iguanas were identified as San Salvador rock iguanas and only a few hundred of them now remain in the…

Greece faces court over turtle habitat

The European Union (EU) is to take Greece to court over the threats to turtle habitat in the country. The EU is to claim that unrestricted development around the coast of Greece is putting endangered sea turtles at risk. Of particular concern is  Kyparissia Bay in the Western Peloponnese, one of the most important nesting beaches for loggerhead turtles (caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean. Kyparissia Bay is an area that is protected by European legislation but the greek authorities are issuing a large number of permits for development in the region and this is putting the habitat of loggerhead turtles at risk. Despite being issued with two letters of warning since 2011 and Greece…

Water test to end the great newt scam

Claiming that they’ve seen protected greater crested newts on a proposed site is something that is often used by anti-housing campaigners. It adds costs to any planning application and can also delay the development process for many months as ecologists have to make repeated visits to a site to try to find evidence. Now a simple water test can be used to determine the presence – or not – of newts. Following substantial testing by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England has said it will accept the results of a water test as an acceptable way of determining if the protected species is present on a site.…

Tragic Stranding of over 800 dead Olive Ridley Sea Turtles in One Night

On the weekend of the 22nd of this month over 800 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles were washed ashore in Andhra Pradesh, India. This was no freak accident, the turtles fell victim to a large number of trawl boats that came to the area on the 17th and 18th from the nearby city of Chennai to fish for shrimp. Our good friends at TREE Foundation India, who have been working tirelessly to protect sea turtles and other marine life for the last 12 years, witnessed the mass stranding first hand. As far as the eye could see turtles were washed up all along the coast. This is what shrimp fisheries…

British courts again fail to take illegal wildlife trading seriously

Once again magistrates and the courts in Britain have failed to take the illegal trade in endangered species seriously. This time a trader of endangered tortoises got away with nothing more than a conditional discharge at Slough Magistrates Court. And it comes barely weeks after a high profile conference in London concerned with trading of endangered species. Again the illegal traders in Britain are hiding behind what appears to be good causes. This latest incident involves Graham Martin, 36, of Furze Platts, Bracknell who traded endangered spur-thighed and Hermann’s tortoises while at the same time passing himself off as a reptile rescuer by operating the Berkshire Reptile Rescue in Bracknell.…

UK Border Force seizes endangered reptiles

Thirteen endangered San Salvador Rock Iguanas have been seized by Border Agency officers at Heathrow. The reptiles were in the possession of 2 Romanian women on their way to Germany. The women were passing through Terminal 5 yesterday on their way back to Dusseldorf from the Bahamas. 1 of the iguanas had died during transport. Customs officials found the iguanas individually wrapped in socks during checks. The iguanas are covered by the CITES agreement because of their endangered status. The women aged 24 and 26 have been arrested and investigations are on-going by the National Crime Agency’s Border Policing Command and the Border Force CITES team at Heathrow Airport. The Heathrow-based…

UK Garden wildlife health watch launches

  Britain’s largest survey of the health of garden wildlife has begun today and lead partners are calling for people to report on the condition of their garden wildlife at the web site of the Garden Wildlife Health project. The aim of the project is to  gain a better understanding of the diseases that threaten native wildlife. The Garden Wildlife Health project is being run by a partnership of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO),  Froglife and Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB). The survey is aimed at the full spectrum of wildlife that is regularly seen in people’s gardens including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.…

Security engraving hopes for saving tortoises

With just 400 adult Ploughshare tortoises left in the wild conservationists are hoping to reduce their value to poachers by engraving security codes on to their highly decorative shells. Now critically endangered the ploughshare tortoise has seen it’s population plummet in recent years as poachers seek them out for supplies to the pet trade. The tortoise only live in north-west Madagascar and are so popular because of the high domed shell and intricate patterns. Many of the Ploughshare Tortoises poached from Madagascar will make their way to the pet markets of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Conservationists who are trying to protect the tortoise are now hoping that by engraving the…

Return of the Lizard King: Ministry hits back at Al Jazeera

Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry have responded to the recent Al Jazeera documentary about Anson Wong – also known as The Lizard King. In an open letter to the national newspaper News Straits Times the ministry have pointed out some mistakes in the programme. The main point of concern is the claim that Anson Wong and his wife are back in trading legally in wildlife. The ministry points out that both Anson Wong and his wife had all their licences to trade in wildlife revoked by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) back in September 2010. The claim that the two are operating with the required permits and…

CITES checklist now online

With 35,000 different species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) it can be difficult for wildlife traders and customers to ensure that they have the adequate documentation and certificates. Many exotic pet or plant owners may not even be aware of the need for certification of some species. THat has all changed now with an easy to use web site that offer quick checking of species for any trade restrictions. The new online tool offered by CITES allows for checking of species by scientific name, common names, index listing or country of origin of species. With a few taps on a keyboard you can find out…

British citizen gets 5 years jail in Kenya over suspected snake smuggling

A British citizen has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for being in possession of 6 poisonous snakes without a permit in a suspected wildlife smuggling case. 43-years-old Simon David Harris pleaded with the magistrate for the sentence to be converted to a fine as he was led away to start his prison term. Harris, who was living in Germany, had visited Kenya and was with a Kenyan colleague, Richard Wangwe Adera, at a hotel – the Fish Camp hotel at Kongoni – when police arrested them following a tip-off. The police found that the two were in possession of 6 live Kenya horned viper snakes. The two had no certificate of ownership, they had failed to report possession…

450000 water monitor lizards killed each year for handbags

A team of Indonesian and German researchers have recently published a comprehensive study into the current state of south-east Asia’s giant lizard populations. Despite all the species of the giant lizards having protection under CITES they are under threat from an un-controlled trade. The pet trade is the biggest threat to the giant lizards-  such as monitor lizards -but the luxury goods market in the west is also driving illegal killing of vast numbers of wild monitor lizards. The study published in Herpetological Conservation and Biology highlighted how as many as 450,000 water monitor lizards each year are killed in Indonesia to provide skins for the luxury goods markets of Western countries.…

International taxonomists name their Top 10 new species from 2012

In celebration of  Carolus Linnaeus – the scientist who established the naming system for species – the world’s top taxonomists have released their latest Top 10 new species list. The latest list  covers 2012 and is the 6th annual list they have produced. The choice of this years top species covers a wide range of organisms from the most basic of microbes through to a brand new monkey species that was named last year. Most of the species are still alive and well today but there was also a new fossil species included in this years list. There is a nod to the modern world in the list also with…

New snake species named after assassinated forest campaigner

A deadly but beautiful new species of palm pit-viper snake has been named after the assassinated forest campaigner Mario Guifarro. The gorgeous new species was discovered by scientists during two expeditions in 2010 aimed at studying the fauna of Texiguat Wildlife Refuge, one of the most endemism-rich and diverse highland forests in Mesoamerica. The new snake species Bothriechis guifarroi had previously been confused with other pitviper species until a genetic analysis revealed that it was a separate species. The new name was published in the latest edition of Zookeys. The new species means that the Texiguat Wildlife Refuge now has at least 15 unique endemic species. The refuge was created in…

109 King Cobras seized in one day in Vietnam

Authorities in Vietnam undertook 2 operations on Friday which resulted in the seizure of 109 King Cobras. 53 were found in a sack in a car being driven in Hanoi and 56 were seized in Hoang Mai District. The world’s most verminous snake which grows up to 18 feet in length is also sadly sought for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Trading in King Cobra is banned in Vietnam and the seizures are some of the results of an operation that was launched after a survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society was published at a wildlife conference in Hanoi last week. The survey showed the widespread and open trading of endangered…