Custom officials in Shanghai have announced that they seized more than 2,000 smuggled live turtles enclosed in six large containers of crabs imported from Indonesia last Nov. 19, 2015.

An international Shanghai-based shipping company owned the eight containers and declared the crab imports. The majority of the seized turtles were endangered species such as the spotted pond turtle, amboina box turtle and the pig-nosed turtle. Several local zoos are now taking care of the seized turtles.

"When we opened the cartons, we found crabs on the upper layer and a great number of little turtles beneath the crabs. We counted them and there were more than 2,000 turtles," said Shanghai Pudong International Airport's Customs Materials Control Department Director, Wu Bin.

According to Wu, the case was referred to the anti-smuggling department for further investigation. The authorities did not give any more information about the confiscation, nor whether any charges has been filed against the shipping company.

Environmentalists said that China's growing demand for exotic and rare animals add to the increased smuggling practices involving species such as snakes and turtles. The Shanghai customs department was able to stop 1,861 cases of smuggling in 2015 with a total estimated amount of 8.56 billion yuan (approximately $1.3 billion).

Among the Chinese people, turtles are deemed as one of the most exotic, rare and sought-after pets. This practice continues to increase smuggling activities that further endanger several species.

Turtles are also praised as one of China's famous delicacies. The government has banned importation of rare and exotic animals. For this reason, many scientific journals started withholding the exact locations of newly discovered species to help prevent animal poaching.

When two new large gecko species in southern China were discovered in 2015, their exact locations were omitted from the study published in Zootaxa academic journal. The announcement came with the caveat that exact locations were already disclosed to the relevant agencies.

"Due to the popularity of this genus as novelty pets, and recurring cases of scientific descriptions driving herpetofauna to near-extinction by commercial collectors, we do not disclose the collecting localities of these restricted-range species in this publication," wrote the study authors.

Photo: Gerwin Sturm | Flickr

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