FRONTLINE FLASH | Hope for Turtles

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Did you know that tortoises and turtles are trafficked by the thousands every year? Taped up so they can’t move, stuffed into suitcases and put on planes where many of them die.

Why?
Because of the demand from the exotic pet trade, markets and restaurants selling exotic fare and traditional medicine.

Airport authorities routinely seize suitcases full of tortoises or turtles that have travelled thousands of miles to reach illegal markets. These beautiful creatures have not been fed for days before their journey to cut down on waste products, which means many are in poor health and vulnerable to injuries and diseases and may die in transit. Even if they do survive the journey, they are destined for a soup bowl or as a pet that is poorly looked after.

What can we do about it? Don’t fret — there is still hope.
Freeland and its partners are continuously working to disrupt and dismantle the criminal syndicates that are profiting from wildlife trafficking which is driving critically endangered species like the ploughshare and radiated tortoises to extinction. With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) program, the ASEAN- Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) has played an instrumental role in the monitoring and investigation of turtle trafficking syndicates.

Hope for Turtles: Illicit Supply Chain Disrupted
Ongoing monitoring of the enormous and hugely profitable illegal trade in turtles shows that enforcement operations have temporarily disrupted this illegal business that is run between South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. A senior member of an international wildlife trafficking ring was arrested in Bangkok in 2016, after 18 months of investigations by Thai and Indian police and ASEAN-WEN, with support provided by Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Organization, Freeland, World Animal Protection, and regional data analysis through USAID’s ARREST program. The suspect, of Thai origin, had been dealing in drugs and arms with turtle smuggling proving equally lucrative. For years his criminal network had been trafficking these reptiles between China, India, Malaysia and Thailand, until this joint operation cracked the case open, potentially saving thousands of creatures. Attend the ARREST Program close-out on September 15 and learn more about progress and lessons learned from this and other enforcement operations aimed at reducing the trade in endangered species.

USAID’s Largest Counter Wildlife Trafficking Program Highlights Achievements this September in Bangkok
The main accomplishments of the ARREST Program, together with lessons learned and the many tools and legacies of the program, will be presented at a press conference held in Bangkok on September 15 at 11 a.m., with key ARREST partners from across Asia, including representatives from government agencies, NGOs, and members of the local and international media. USAID encourages everyone to join the event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, located on the top floor of the Maneeya Center Building, next to the Chitlom BTS station. For more information, please contact Freeland, the lead implementing partner of ARREST, at info@freeland.org.

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