Animal trafficker arrested for smuggling more than 2,000 turtles to be eaten

A suspected animal trafficker has been arrested trying to smuggle more than 2,000 turtles on a long-haul coach through Colombia.

Colombian authorities said this type of turtle is considered a delicacy at Easter in the devout, mostly Catholic country, and they often catch smugglers at this time of year who move them around the country to meet the asks after being poached from the wild.

For Catholics, Easter means abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the other Fridays before Easter.

But where beef, pork, and poultry aren’t allowed, fish isn’t the only alternative source of protein, and in Colombia worshipers have their own tradition of eating turtles.

Police seized 2,047 turtles from a citizen transporting them on a public bus on April 14, 2022 in Quindio, Colombia.

Eating turtle meat during Lent is so deeply rooted in the culture of northwest Colombia that locals have a popular saying: “If you haven’t eaten turtle meat, you haven’t celebrated Holy Week”.

Footage first shows at least six large plastic containers with a slew of tiny turtles moving about inside after authorities seized them from the bus during the bust.

Footage then shows authorities stacking the large plastic containers of turtles on the sidewalk after seizing them. And close-up images of the turtles also show that they are so small they can fit in the palm of a person’s hand.

Zenger News obtained the footage and a statement from the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Quindio (CRQ), saying that on Thursday, April 14, they “detained a citizen with a cargo of 2,047 turtles which he was transporting on a public service bus “.

The CRQ is a Colombian government organization responsible for the management and protection of environmental resources in the district of Quindio, a department in the center-west of Colombia.

Colombian regional environmental authorities report directly to the Colombian Ministry of the Environment.

The man is believed to have left the northern Colombia region of Cesar, which is near the Caribbean Sea, on the coach and was heading to the southwestern region of Valle del Cauca.

Authorities reportedly arrested the suspected animal trafficker, who has not been named, as the bus transited through the Quindio area.

The CRQ said that the arrest “was the result of one of the checkpoints that our traffic police have and that thanks to the cooperation between the environmental police and the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Quindio, we have succeeded in seizing these individuals of the fauna”.

Turtles seized in Colombia
Police seized 2,047 turtles from a citizen transporting them on a public bus on April 14, 2022 in Quindio, Colombia.

The turtles were Colombian sliders (Trachemys callirostris), according to Jose Manuel Cortes Orozco, the director of the CRQ.

They are known in Colombia as “tortugas hicoteas” and are found in Colombia and Venezuela. They have green shells with splashes of bright colors. The species typically reaches sizes ranging from around 10 inches to a maximum of 13.7 inches.

The authorities are said to have given the 2,047 turtles a health check before they were “released into their natural habitat in the wild”, in the Colombian Caribbean, on the Atlantic coast.

Authorities have stated that this type of turtle is one of the most trafficked species in Colombia, along with the red-footed turtle (Chelonoidis carbonarius), known locally as the morrocoy tortoise, and the green iguana (iguana iguana).

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.


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