ISLAMABAD (PR): China on Monday handed over 204 confiscated black pond turtles to Pakistan, where the rare animals’ natural habitat is located.
The hand-over ceremony was held at a land customs in Tajik Autonomous County of Taxkorgan in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which borders Pakistan, says a press release received here.
This is the first time China has returned smuggled rare animals to their source country. It was also a major step for China in combating wildlife poaching and smuggling after it incinerated 6 tonnes of seized ivory stock in January in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, Xinhua reported.
The smuggled reptiles were seized in Taxkorgan in June. Police caught a Pakistani suspect, who smuggled the animals to Taxkorgan, and five Chinese buyers, who said they intended to ship the animals to Guangzhou and Hong Kong for sale.
The black pond turtle is listed in the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, of which China is a contracting member. The legal protection prohibits international trading of the rare reptile.
According to investigators, the turtles can be sold for over 10,000 yuan (1,627 U.S. dollars) each as pets in China.
Wildlife protection officials from Pakistan and representatives from China’s State Forestry Administration and the General Administration of Customs attended the hand-over ceremony.