The suspects allegedly had Palawan forest turtles, Asian leaf turtles and Southeast Asian box turtles in their possession.
Environmental officers on Palawan Island in the Philippines confiscated close to 1000 turtles that were destined for the Chinese black market. The turtles, Palawan forest turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis), Asian leaf turtles (Cyclemys dentata) and Southeast Asian box turtles (Cuora amboinensis) were discovered in Taytay town in northern Palawan.
Authorities arrested Joel Sulayaw, Gerald Favila, and Benjie Dimasupil and were charged with illegally possessing threatened wildlife species under the country’s Philippine Wildlife Act. The turtles were brought to the island’s capital, Puerto Princesa, where they will be inventoried and then eventually released back into the wild. China’s black market trade of illegal animals is lucrative, with the going rate for turtles per animal, depending upon the species, ranges from P8,000 to P12,000 pesos or $US172 to $258. Chinese poaching in the Philippines is not new, and has been occurring with the help of local Filipinos for decades.
In June, Philippine conservationists rescued 3,831 Palawan forest turtles, 160 Asian leaf turtles, and 25 Southeast Asian box turtles from a syndicate that was preparing to ship the turtles to China for food.
The Palawan forest turtle can only be found on Palawan island in the Philippines. It lives in creeks and small rivers with full forest canopies and feeds and mates at night. It is a critically endangered species.
The Asian leaf turtle is native to Southeast Asia and has a wider range than that of the Palawan forest turtle. It is an omnivore and is known to squirt the contents of its digestive system when threatened. It attains a shell length of about 6 to 9 inches and is common in the pet trade.
The Southeast Asian box turtle is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and is found throughout much of Southeast Asia. This turtle is blackish/brown in coloration and are divided into four subspecies: Cuora amboinensis amboinensis (Wallacean Box Turtle), Cuora amboinensis couro (West Indonesian Box Turtle), Cuora amboinensis kamaroma (South East Asian Box Turtle) and Cuora amboinensis lineata (Burmese Box Turtle).
John Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata