Canadian Who Smuggled 38 Turtles Is Let Off With Mere Probation, A Paltry Fine And A Ban From Owning Reptiles For A Decade

A Canadian who attempted to smuggle nearly 40 turtles has been let off with a mere probation of two years and a relatively paltry fine. As a precautionary measure, he has been banned from owning any reptiles for the next ten years.

A Canadian citizen, identified as Dong Yan, who attempted to smuggle 38 turtles into the country, was given probation, a fine and has been banned from owning such reptiles for 10 years. He hasn’t been charged with animal cruelty for stuffing the 38 turtles in his pants. Most of these poor creatures were inhumanely stuffed into plastic bags. These bags were taped onto Yan’s legs for transportation, shared Environment and Climate Change Canada through a statement,

“Dong Yan of Windsor, Ontario, had tried to bring the reptiles from the United States into the southern part of the province. The turtles were contained in plastic bags and taped to Mr. Yan’s legs.”

The department added that Yan was convicted on February 17. What’s concerning is that Yan was apprehended during an inspection way back in 2014. He had attempted to enter Canada through the Niagara border crossing. It appears Yan had tried to take the reptiles from the United States. He sought to enter through the southern part of the Ontario province but was caught.


Turtles are a much sought after commodity in Canada. In fact, demand for the reptiles has been steadily rising. Officials confirmed that live specimens are in high demand for use as pets. However, many of these poor creatures are devoured as delicacies. Asian food and collector markets are always actively seeking people like Yan to bring in the turtles through customs. Since legally importing these creatures is a big hassle, smuggling remains active and is thriving.

Many are caught, but a large number of people do slip through, as it is not feasible to thoroughly screen everyone at the numerous entry and exit points between the United States and Canada. Owing to the rarity of reptiles like these turtles, their prices easily shoot up, shared Ed Grace, deputy chief law enforcement officer with the US Fish and Wildlife Service,

“These turtles, by the time they get to the end-collector, they can be worth anywhere from $1,300 to $1,500 a turtle.”

Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers investigated the incident as part of a co-operative investigation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, reported CBC News. Dong Yan was convicted of “illegally importing reptiles into Canada that were transported in contravention of a foreign state’s law.”

Yan has been slapped with a C$3,500 ($2,600) fine and a probation of two years. He will have to attend 50 hours of community service and must notify the environment department of international travel, reported Yahoo. Interestingly, he has also been ordered to write a letter about his experience “for publication as the department sees fit.” In simple words, his actions and the subsequent legal ramifications could be chronicled by the legal departments and published in the hopes that his account will serve as a deterrent.


Collectors routinely insist on a particular type of turtle. The Canadian was smuggling ringed map turtles, diamondback terrapins, three-toed box turtles, spotted turtles and red-eared sliders. Once caught, these human mules often plead guilty to ensure they avoid a lengthy trial and a much severe punishment. Besides turtles, smugglers have also been caught trying to move hummingbirds smuggled in wigs, rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters, reported The Guardian.

Men caught smuggling live animals are merely slapped with illegal smuggling charges and violations of the endangered species act. However, the punishment doesn’t quite match with the crime, allege animal rights activists.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]