Customs officers last week seized one angonoka, or ploughshare tortoise, and 14 painted terrapins — which are listed as critically endangered by international wildlife conservation organizations — hidden in an airfreight shipment of shoes from Malaysia, a Council of Agriculture official said on Monday.
The reptiles were detected by an X-ray scanner in a shipment of sports shoes from Penang and were taken to a wildlife rescue center in northern Taiwan, Forestry Bureau Deputy Director Yang Hung-chih (楊宏志) said.
One was identified as an angonoka tortoise, a critically endangered species endemic to Madagascar that is in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and is listed as one of the world’s most threatened animals in the World Wildlife Crime Report published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
The wild population is down to approximately 600 animals, Yang said.
CITES’ Appendix I includes the world’s most endangered plants and animals and trade in these species, or even parts of them, is completely banned, except in rare cases such as scientific research, Yang said.
The rare painted terrapin, also known as the painted batagur or saw-jawed turtle, is found in the river systems and estuaries of Southeast Asia.
It is listed in CITES’ Appendix II, which contains species that are not yet threatened with extinction, but which could become threatened if unlimited trade were allowed. Plants and animals in this category may be traded internationally, but there are strict rules.