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1,000 smuggled turtles put in Detroit Zoo's care

Oct 3, 2014

The Detroit Zoo is caring for more than 1,000 turtles authorities say are tied to an international smuggling ring.

According to a news release Friday from the zoo, a number of the turtles were found stuffed into rubber snow boots and cereal boxes inside a Canadian man's luggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week. The man was attempting to board a plane for Shanghai, China. 

A diamondback terrapin hatchling.
Credit C.A. Chicoine / TurtleZone News

The zoo says the incident is connected to a smuggling ring led by another Canadian man who attempted to cross the Detroit-Windsor, Ontario, border in August with 51 turtles concealed in his pants.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents asked the Detroit Zoo to assist with the turtles' care while the investigation continues. The 1,007 confiscated reptiles are mostly juvenile hatchlings less than a month old. They include more than 750 diamondback terrapins.

Scott Carter, a Detroit Zoo Chief Life Sciences Officer comments that "the conditions of the turtles vary. It isn't surprising that some are not doing well given the way they were being smuggled." Carter further notes that "Most [of the smuggled turtles] are not of conservation concern, but some are endangered species." 

- Ari Sandberg, Michigan Radio Newsroom