Chinese version

Situation of the 307 Star tortoises seized in Hong Kong
by Toni
2004 March 20

Owing to the concern about the 307 live Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) seized which were smuggled into Hong Kong I have been looking into the whereabouts and current situation of them. I am writing this to let everyone who has the same concern or curiosity know the circumstance.

The Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department took temporary care of the tortoises for the first few days. They were juveniles and not exceeding four inches in carapace length. Before long, they were sent to the Turtle Survival Alliance which is on an IUCN/SSC partnership network. The tortoises were then turned over to the Geochelone elegans taxon management group which placed them into established breeding programs approximately half in the United States and half in Europe. In these groups they will be a tremendous help in insuring a good genetic diversity. Those that were in need of veterinary care were sent immediately to a number veterinarians experienced with this species. Fortunately very few of them are in this group.


I believe G. elegans to be the most common tortoise species that is smuggled into pet market in Hong Kong as a result of its lovable appearance and low price. They are sold out pretty quickly. In fact, pet stores would rarely import captive-bred individuals since the cost is much higher than the smuggled wild-caught's. This time, it was a favorable turn in life of this herd of 307 endangered little star tortoises. Supposing that they were not seized, most of them should have been supplied to the local pet market. Juveniles of this species are relatively fragile by nature. Many would fall ill soon after being kept in improper condition in some pet stores, and what is more, actually they had been stressed and suffering much from awful transportation during the process of smuggling. Moreover, smuggled G. elegans should all be wild-caught. Parasites and other health problems would make them worse. Finally, many sick individuals are sold to general hobbyists that vary in experience. The quantity of reptile smuggling in Hong Kong does not seem to be obviously growing. Nevertheless, I will be more than delighted to see it reduce. So, something that everyone of you must be capable to do to save reptiles - only buy captive-bred reptiles and have them legally!

By the way, If you did not even know what was happening here is the news on 3rd March 2004: "Hong Kong Customs officials have seized 307 live Indian star tortoises, an endangered species, which were smuggled into Hong Kong in two suitcases on a flight from Malaysia. The authorities arrested a 30-year-old Malaysian man after they discovered the tortoises, packed in unclaimed baggage that had come in on a flight from Kuala Lumpur on Monday. The tortoises were worth about HK$307,000, officials said in a statement."

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