Indonesia Confiscates Pig-Nosed Turtles, Hunts For Smugglers
April 2, 2013

Indonesia Confiscates Pig-Nosed Turtles, Hunts For Smugglers

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

A recent flight from Papua New Guinea to Hong Kong was found to have had some surprising passengers during a layover in Indonesia.

According to officials at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, an outgoing flight contained 687 baby pig-nosed turtles which were reportedly set to be smuggled into Hong Kong. It is estimated these turtles could have netted their smuggler an estimated $13,000. The Jakarta Natural Resources Center now has custody of the baby turtles and will treat them and monitor their health before sending them back home to Papua New Guinea. Now officials are looking for the alleged smugglers.

Teguh Samudro, the head of Jakarta´s Fish Quarantine, Quality Control and Fishery Products Safety Agency (BKIPM) told the Jakarta Post these baby turtles were discovered in packages which had been registered as hold baggage for the March 15 flight.

“The packages were broken when they arrived at the airport, so we could tell what was inside,” said Samudro.

Samudro was short on many other details, however. For instance, he did not explain why it took the BKIPM more than two weeks to disclose information about the case. He also had no information on who the packages belonged to prior to being confiscated by airport officials.

This is particularly confusing as the airport will not check luggage as “hold baggage” without obtaining the owner´s ID. Since the package containing the turtles lacked proper paperwork, it is now doubly hard to determine where the package was being sent and who may have been on the receiving end of 687 illegal turtles. Samudro was also short on details on how a mislabeled package without any owner identification could have made it as far as Jakarta.

Samudro did mention that the smugglers, whoever they may be, will face some serious penalties.

This crime is in violation of two laws; one passed in 1992 which covers animal, fish and plant quarantines and another passed in 1990 which covers biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. If caught, the smugglers could face up to three years in prison and a $15,400 fine.

Had the smugglers been able to sell these turtles, they could have earned less than their potential fine. According to reports, baby pig-nosed turtles fetch $15 to $20 a piece. Older, adult turtles are much more valuable and are sold at prices upwards of $2,000.

According to the Associated Press, pig-nosed turtles (also known as Carettochelys insculpta) make their homes in freshwater streams and rivers in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The number one threat to these endangered animals is the illegal animal trade, followed only by commercial fishing and hunters.

According to not-for-profit group ARKive, the pig-nosed turtle is listed as a “Vulnerable” species on the IUCN Red List. The group also claims the turtle´s small habitat range and predictability of their nesting and mating habits make them even more susceptible to illegal animal trade.