More than two thousand rare turtles confiscated from traffickers last month in a U.S. government-supported cross border law enforcement operation were successfully repatriated to their native wild home in Indonesia on February 13.

The “Pig-nosed” turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) were confiscated in Hong Kong on January 12th by local authorities after they received a tip-off during a global wildlife enforcement sting operation code-named “Cobra II”.  Cobra II was sponsored by USAID, State Department Bureau of International Law Enforcement and Narcotics Affairs, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The turtles were poached and trafficked out of Indonesia and destined for mainland China. Investigations continue as officers look to identify the illegal exporters from Indonesia and illegal importers in China.  China’s State Forestry Administration and Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department cooperated to ensure that the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden cared for the turtles until they could be repatriated to their natural habitat.

The turtles were flown to the remote Papua region of eastern Indonesia and transferred upriver where they were released in the protected Lorentz National Park.  During January, Cobra II resulted in the arrests of over 400 criminals in Asia and Africa. In spite of increased confiscations, many criminals are escaping justice and remain at large.

New cross-border wildlife enforcement operations like Cobra II are now being organized by ARREST partner ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network together with partner governments, and with continued support from the U.S. government and other partners.

In the photo: In coordination with Operation Cobra II participants, the USAID-funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking Program (ARREST) joined the Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, World Society for the Protection of Animals and Garuda Airlines to organize the repatriation. 

Source: USAID/RDMA Regional Environment Office Weekly Update