One of the biggest undertakings the TSA is facing in the coming weeks is one that we couldn't have planned for - a major confiscation of smuggled turtles and tortoises in Hong Kong. Our friends at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) in Hong Kong contacted us in February seeking our assistance. The government had seized approximately 1,300 turtles, including over 150 endangered Asian Temple Turtles (Heosemys/Hieremys annandalii) and almost 200 critically endangered Madagascan Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata), and did not have the resources to house or care for the animals.
The shipment is believed to have originated in Indonesia, passing through Hong Kong on its way to the food markets of mainland China. KFBG was told that if they could not help to mobilize resources immediately, the animals would be euthanized. (Read more about the details of the confiscation in a press release from KFBG by clicking here) The shipment that was intercepted was very large - consisting of approximately 70 polystyrene containers. The turtles were packed and shipped inhumanely, often stacked layers deep on top of one another.
KFBG agreed to help, but due to limited resources and space (not that any facility is prepared for an influx of 1,300 animals at one time!), they immediately reached out to their partners around the world for assistance. Staff at KFBG have begun veterinary triage and care for these animals, most of which were weakened by inhumane shipping conditions. After being assessed, the turtles (now all marked with an individual identification number) were given access to enclosures with water so that they could begin to rehydrate themselves. Sometime in the next few weeks, the TSA will begin receiving many of these animals and we will be placing them within the United States and Europe. While this will be a daunting task, it is one that we could not ignore.
A donation link has been created on the TSA website for those of you who would like to support the shipment, medical care and placement of these turtles. Given not only the sheer number, but also the size of some of these turtles, shipment costs are anticipated to be high and any support that you can provide would be appreciated. One of the hallmarks of the TSA is our ability to respond quickly to wildlife crises, but we can only do so with your support!
More details on the animals that will be received by the TSA and placement will be available in coming weeks as final plans come together. Keep an eye on the newsletter and the TSA website for updates.
Photo credits: Kadoorie Farm