Sun, Jul 21, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Customs finds shipment of endangered reptiles

NOT FISH:The Taipei Customs Office said that it found slider turtles, baby crocodiles, Assam roofed turtles and ploughshare tortoises worth a combined NT$5 million

By Yao Chieh-hsiu and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A cargo inspection officer from the Taipei Customs Office holds a ploughshare tortoise in Taipei on Thursday.

Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times

The Taipei Customs Office’s express cargo inspections team has seized a shipment of protected reptiles.

The shipment included two critically endangered ploughshare tortoises, the office said, adding that the species is the most valuable tortoise in the world, with the pair valued at up to NT$2.4 million (US$77,295).

The shipment also included 21 Assam roofed turtles, which is classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the office said.

The office at 2:30pm on Thursday received an express cargo shipment from Malaysia labeled as tropical fish, it said.

The team opened the packages after noticing a discrepancy in documentation for the shipment and found 53 reptiles, it said.

The office consulted National Pingtung University of Science and Technology’s Institute of Wildlife Conservation, which said that 26 of the animals in the shipment were endangered.

The shipment included three young crocodiles, but two of them had died in transit, the office said.

There were also 27 red-eared slider turtles, it said, adding that the combined value of the 53 animals was estimated at more than NT$5 million.

Customs officials said they would charge the intended recipient, surnamed Lin (林), with contravening the Foreign Trade Act (貿易法) and the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法).

Separately, customs officials on May 17 discovered three ploughshare tortoises in the check-in luggage of a traveler from Malaysia.

The largest of the three tortoises recovered in May was 41cm long and valued at NT$1.27 million, the office said, adding that the other two recovered with it were 26cm and 24cm long.

The two discovered on Thursday were 40cm and 41cm long, the office added.

Only about 400 ploughshare tortoises are believed to remain in the wild and they can only be found in a small area in Madagascar, the university said.

However, up to six eggs can be laid by a single female in captivity, it said, adding that about 6,000 of either sex are in the hands of private owners worldwide.

Their value is measured in centimeters, with each centimeter valued at about US$1,000, it said, adding that the average length of an adult male is 41.48cm.

Private collectors are advised to check whether animals are listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora before importing them, the office said.

Failure to do so could result in a breach of Article 40 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, potentially resulting in a prison term of six months to five years and a fine of NT$300,000 to NT$1.5 million, it said.

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