Smugglers are always looking for ways to sneak things past airport security. People have tried to smuggle medicine, food, clothes, jewelry, money, and even animals to trade for money, or for their own personal use. In fact, you’d be surprised at the stuff that manages to get past customs. Back in January of 2018, smugglers tried smuggling the most interesting cargo into Hong Kong International Airport. But the cargo was big and aroused suspicion. So, airport security decided to take a look inside, and what they found turned out to be something unexpected, but at the same time, quite beautiful and alarming.Customs officials were curious about a series of flat shipping crates that had arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport. After studying the shipping label, one of the customs officials decided to take a look inside.
To the untrained eye, it looked like containers some restaurants give for takeout orders. But there were hundreds of animals packed inside these containers, and they were scurrying around, wondering what was going on.
Authorities estimated that there were almost 600 of these rare turtles, and they were being illegally trafficked. Fortunately, airport security got to them before the wildlife traffickers got their hands on them.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a rare occurrence for officials. These types of turtles have been rescued from smugglers before. But traffickers have repeatedly tried to smuggle the turtles into Hong Kong, and it was going to take months to prepare them for their return trip.
Ironically, this vulnerable species is protected by Indonesian law, and can’t be traded. But smugglers still find ways to smuggle them out of their natural habitats. And given that they’re small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand, they’re virtually defenseless and rely on humanity for help.
Over 2,000 pig-nosed turtles were rescued during these three separate incidents alone. But they’re in such high demand, that smugglers continue to try, and it doesn’t bode well for these harmless looking creatures.
They’re used in traditional Eastern medicine. However, other times, the turtles will be turned into a delicacy so people can consume them. According to the International Animal Rescue (IAR), pig-nosed turtle eggs are often taken in Papua New Guinea and put in incubators to hatch more turtles.
It was a three-day journey home and members from Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Hong Kong, IAR Indonesia, the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, and government officials in Hong Kong and Indonesia worked together to make the trip back possible.
Then they were driven for 10 hours, placed on a boat, and taken to the area where they were designated to be released. Fortunately, every turtle made it safe and sound. Community members in the area all played a hand to ensure the repatriation went smoothly.
They all stood in a line along the Kao River, located in southern Papua New Guinea, and took photos shortly before they released the turtles back into the wild, where they will hopefully get to lead a normal life.
He described the gentle creatures as an asset to the local community in New Guinea, and he hopes that everyone will be able to ensure that wildlife traffickers never get their hands on the turtles ever again.