A total of 687 baby pig-nose turtles were found in a cargo package arriving at Jakarta, Indonesia’s Soekarno-Hatta airport on a local carrier coming from the province of Papua. Less than a month old when they were rescued, the baby turtles have been quarantined ever since, Indonesian authorities announced on Monday.
Quarantine official Teguh Samudro said that a false address was put on the cargo package, so they have been unable to find the smugglers or figure out where the live turtles were going. However, he added that they will soon be returned to their natural habitat in Papua.
Awen Supranata, head of a Jakarta conservation agency, said that the baby pig-nose turtles were likely headed for another Asian country or even to Europe.
Pig-nose turtles, also known as Fly River Turtles or Pitted-shell turtles, are rated as a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They may be an endangered or vanishing species, but science doesn’t have a good idea of the size of the population. A report to the Australian government identified several threats to the species, but they couldn’t put it on the endangered species list because they simply didn’t have enough data.
The species lives in both Australia and Indonesia. The large, freshwater turtle has paddles instead of legs so that it’s built more like a sea turtle. Males won’t leave the water, and females only climb on land to build their nests.
Despite the fact that those cute baby pig-nose turtles ultimately grow to be large animals over two feet in diameter, they have been victimized by collectors selling them illegally as pets.
And they aren’t the only turtle species to face a threat from wildlife smugglers. A two-person team was recently caught in Thailand when they tried to smuggle one-tenth of the remaining population of Madagascar’s critically endangered ploughshare tortoises through Bangkok’s international airport.
Let’s hope that the baby pig-nose turtles get home soon.
[pig-nose turtle photo courtesy Steven Walling via Wikipedia Commons]