Nature and the Environment
in the News

Source: Wildlife Alliance Press Release
Date: November 17, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Wildlife Alliance Rescues Hundreds of Turtles and Snakes in Major Bust of Reptile Smugglers

(Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 17, 2008)? In cooperation with the Cambodian Forestry Administration, Wildlife Alliance's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team
(WRRT) rescued hundreds of live turtles and pythons from illegal reptile smugglers during an operation in Kg Chnnang province.

On Sunday, November 9, 2008, the WRRT stopped two cars along national road No. 5, each carrying hundreds of kilograms of turtles, snakes, and tortoises -- many of them threatened or endangered. The drivers of the two cars, both Cambodian nationals, were believed to be taking the wildlife to Vietnam via Kandal Province to sell into the region's illegal wildlife trade. More than 485 kilograms (1069 pounds) of wildlife were crammed into the trunks of the two vehicles.

All the species are believed to have been taken illegally from the wild in protected areas in Battambang province. WRRT released all the animals into their natural habitats shortly after seizure.

According to the Asian Turtle Conservation Network, more than 50% of Asia's turtle and tortoise species are listed as "Critically Endangered" or "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, due to overconsumption and an enormous illegal trade for food and traditional cultural uses.

Among the species were:

    * 9 kg of Yellow-headed temple turtles (Hiieremys annandalii) - listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as "Endangered" due to overexploitation and illegal trade
    * 10 kg of Malayan snail-eating turtles (Malayemys subtrijuga) - classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List due to overexploitation and illegal trade
    * 104 kg of Asiatic softshell turtles (Amyda cartilaginea) -  listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List and heavily threatened by overexploitation for food and traditional Asian medicine
    * 30 kg of king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) - listed as an Appendix II animal within CITES and could become further threatened by illegal trade
    * 81 kg of reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus)
    * 56 kg of Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) - listed as an Appendix II animal within CITES and threatened by the leather market, traditional medicine trade and the pet trade

According to Michael Zwirn, Director of U.S. Operations for Wildlife Alliance, "The size of this bust illustrates the scope of the crisis for reptiles in Southeast Asia. Some of these turtle and tortoise species take years to grow to maturity. Poachers and illegal wildlife traders can wipe out the population of a river or lake in one shipment to Vietnam or China."

Wildlife Alliance's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team is supported by the Wallace Research Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, and many other individuals and charities in the United States and elsewhere.

For more information or additional photographs of the animals please
contact:

Nicholas Sorenson
Director of Special Projects
Wildlife Alliance Headquarters - Washington D.C.
Tel: +1 (202) 223-6350

Nick Marx
Cambodia Wildlife Rescue Director
Wildlife Alliance - Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855-23-211-604