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Two suspects charged in turtle smuggling case
Two Florida men face a number of charges related to the illegal capture and sale of freshwater turtle species. According to a press release by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency documented more than 4,000 turtles illegally taken and sold over a six-month period including Florida box turtles (Terrapene carolina bauri), Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina), striped mud turtles (Kinosternon baurii), Florida mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum), chicken turtles (Deirochelys reticularia), Florida softshell turtles (Apalone ferox), Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera aspera), spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) and diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin). These turtles were sometimes sold for as much as $300 an animal wholesale, often to markets in Asia, though the sellers also sometimes traded turtles for marijuana products, according to the agency. “The illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle species and our ecosystems,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton in the release, while a colleague called the bust a win for conservation. FWC biologists recorded the species of seized animals and evaluated the animals’ health before returning more than 600 turtles to the wild. Some turtles not native to the area were retained by a captive wildlife licensee, the agency said. About half of the turtles released are being monitored as part of a long-term study.