Friday, 2 May 2008

Cambodia seizes smuggled snakes, turtles

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian authorities have seized nearly half a tonne of live pythons and turtles that were being smuggled from Thailand to Vietnam, a wildlife conservationist group said on Thursday.

The animals, which included 11 reticulated pythons, 13 Burmese pythons and 257 turtles, were confiscated on Monday in Battambang province, about 300 kilometres (180 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, the Wildlife Alliance said.

Most of the animals had been "illegally collected (in Cambodia) and had been moved to a large-scale holding facility in Thailand before eventually being shipped to Vietnam through Cambodia," the group said in a statement.

Weighing 418.5 kilogrammes, the haul of creatures included Asian box turtles, Malayan snail-eating turtles, black marsh turtles, 12 threatened yellow-headed temple turtles, and two red-eared slider turtles.

Yellow-headed temple turtles, which are depicted on the walls of the famed Angkor temples, are of special cultural significance in Cambodian folklore and legend.

"They are depicted as divine creatures of royalty. Yet their numbers steadily decrease each year due to habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade," the group said.

The animals were confiscated from a Chevrolet pick-up truck with military licence plates, the group said, adding that a 32-year-old military lieutenant was being questioned.

Wildlife Alliance officials said most of the animals were released on Wednesday into their natural habitats, including in the kingdom's Tonle Sap lake.

The illegal wildlife trade flourishes in Cambodia, fuelled by corrupt authorities and weak legislation.

Most of the trafficked animals feed the regional demand for exotic pets or traditional medicines, although a growing number are ending up in small private zoos throughout Cambodia.

1 comment:

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