Oct 19, 2019
Authorities bust poachers supplying illegal trade in pets and Chinese medicine
| CNN — Two men have been charged for poaching and illegally selling thousands of Florida turtles, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The “charges represent the state’s largest seizure of turtles in recent history,” the FWC said in a statement Friday.
More than 4,000 turtles comprising a range of native species were illegally captured and sold over six months, the commission said.
The turtles were worth $200,000 on the black market.
“The illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle species and our ecosystems,” said Eric Sutton, the FWC’s executive director.
U.S. turtles command up to $10,000 each in Asia
After receiving a tip in February 2018, the FWC launched an undercover investigation in which they discovered a ring of traffickers who were selling wild turtles to reptile dealers and distributors.
The suspects had taken so many turtles from targeted habitats that populations were depleted, the commission said.
Brooke Talley, the FWC’s reptile and amphibian conservation coordinator, said:
“Wild turtle populations cannot sustain the level of harvest that took place here. This will likely have consequences for the entire ecosystem and is a detriment for our citizens and future generations.”
Investigators served a search warrant Aug. 12, during which they found hundreds of turtles and the skull and shell of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered species of sea turtles.
The suspects sold the turtles for cash and marijuana products, the commission said. Both suspects face a variety of poaching-related charges.
While the turtles were sold in Florida, they were sold to buyers who shipped them overseas, specifically in Asia, where they were bought as pets.
Depending upon the species, the commission said the poached turtles sold wholesale for up to $300 each and retailed for as much as $10,000 each in Asia. Read more.
Sept 26, 2019
WSOCTV – Officers with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources seized 216 turtles from a home in Chester County and many of them were sick and dehydrated.
They were thrown in barrels and not kept with food or water, officials said.
The eastern box turtles were on their way to Asia.
In places like China, they are believed to bring a long life when they are eaten.
Body parts are also used for medicinal purposes and because of that, many species of the turtle population have been decimated in Asia.
That’s why they are of high value to poachers in other countries, including the U.S.
DNR officers told Channel 9 that the people involved in the illegal animal trade are just snatching up turtles from the road and from the woods.
“They’re going out and collecting them. I mean these guys spend a lot of time and energy out there and have people that bring them turtles,” said Capt. Robert McCullough, with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Officials said the investigation has grown into a federal case, across state lines and also involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service … Read more.
PREVIOUSLY ON HEADLINE HEALTH:
August 30, 2017
CDC Warns: All Turtles Carry Salmonella
Does your child’s playmate have a pet turtle?
(JESSICA FIRGER, NEWSWEEK) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is cautioning people to think twice before bringing home turtles to keep as pets.
The agency recently said 13 states are currently investigating outbreaks of salmonella linked to contact with the hard-shelled reptiles.
New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Connecticut had the highest number of reported infections. In New York, 11 people were sickened by salmonella from turtle contact.
So far, the agency has reported 37 cases of salmonella illness and 16 hospitalizations in the current outbreak. Twelve of the people—32 percent—who fell ill are children under age 5.
All turtles carry salmonella bacteria
Lab tests from the 37 patients revealed they all tested positive for Salmonella Agbeni, a rare strain of the bacteria that doesn’t typically infect humans.
Nearly half of 33 patients responding to questions said they’d had contact the week before with pet turtles, their food, tank or habitat.
Six of nine people interviewed said they’d bought the turtle from a flea market or street vendor or received it as a gift.
All turtles carry salmonella bacteria, and recent research has suggested that the smallest ones may be the most harmful for spreading these unwanted germs, which lead to diarrheal illness, fever, chills and stomach pain. The illness can last for up to a week.
This is not the first turtle-related salmonella outbreak. The CDC reports that from 2011 to 2013, eight multistate outbreaks of salmonella were linked to the reptiles, which sickened a total of 473 people in 41 states in the U.S. Cases occurred in people from ages 1 to 94 years old, but the average age was 4 years old.
In 2015, state and local health officials acquired samples from small turtles from a number of street vendors, then conducted whole genome sequencing.
The results proved that the strain of Salmonella in human outbreaks is genetically closely linked to the bacteria carried by these turtles.
The Food and Drug Administration and other public health officials have recommended avoiding contact with small turtles. Since 1975, the FDA has banned sales and distribution of turtles with shells smaller than four inches. The agency said this current outbreak is likely to continue because so many people are unaware of health hazards related to contact with the animals.
CDC said in a statement:
“All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.”
A report from the CDC, “The Trouble with Tiny Turtles,” offers some practical advice for staying safe as a reptile owner.
Tips include washing hands after contact with pet turtles and cleaning their tank or habitat.
The experts also recommend pet owners refrain from bathing turtles or cleaning turtle tanks in the kitchen or bathroom. “Don’t kiss or snuggle with your turtle,” advises the CDC. “This can increase your risk of getting sick.” Originally displayed with permission from Newsweek via Repubhub.