Smuggled Pig-nosed Turtles Head Home to Indonesia after eight months of care at KFBG

Nature Conservation

(HONG KONG, 24th August, 2018) In January this year 658 Pig-nosed Turtles smuggled from Indonesia
to Hong Kong, were seized by Hong Kong Customs officers. The turtles were sent to the KFBG Wild
Animal Rescue Centre for temporary care. Today 596 turtles have started the long journey back to their
native home in West Papua, Indonesia, a repatriation project that has involved collaboration between
KFBG, the AFCD, the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia and International Animal Rescue
(IAR) Indonesia.

The confiscation and arrival at the KFBG Wild Animal Rescue Centre
On 12 January, the Pig-nosed Turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) were intercepted at the Hong Kong
International Airport and seized by the Hong Kong Customs. All of the turtles were packed into the
smuggler’s check in luggage on a flight from Soekarno Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, Indonesia to
the Hong Kong SAR. The black market value of the 658 Pig-nosed turtles was estimated at HK$526,400.
The offender was later fined HK$20,000 by the courts. KFBG Wild Animal Rescue Centre received the
turtles and assessed their health condition, fortunately most were alive although several were in poor
condition as a result of the cruel transport conditions. Significant costs were incurred by KFBG in caring
for the animals for eight months.

Repatriation process
KFBG and the HKSAR Government have collaborated closely on such repatriation projects. The present
case is the third repatriation for Pig-nosed Turtles to Indonesia. The collaboration between the Ministry of
Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia, the AFCD and International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia
followed a similar course to that of a transfer undertaken in 2011, when over 600 turtles were successfully
repatriated and released in the Maro River adjacent to Bupul Village in Papua, Indonesia.

Following the same protocol as previous case the turtles were carefully packed in specially prepared
plastic boxes containing water and with air holes, all boxes were then placed in a wooden transport crate.
The transport of live animals by air is governed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Live Animal Regulations and care was taken to strictly follow the regulations. KFBG covered most of the
costs of this important repatriation exercise, while the AFCD, IAR, The Wildlife Conservation Society
(WCS) and Toronto Zoo kindly contributed to the funding.

The long journey back to the wild has just commenced, and together the partners in this commendable
action are hopeful that all of the turtles that left Hong Kong will be released in West Papua in the coming
days. Specialist staff from KFBG have joined the long trip by air and road to the release site in a remote
part of West Papua and will be reporting on the final stages of the journey.

Plight of the Pig-nosed Turtles
Pig-nosed Turtles, also known as Fly-River Turtles, are almost entirely aquatic. Their unusual appearance
and aquatic habits have made them popular as exotic pets and this has resulted in a massive illegal trade
which is unsustainable and is causing a decline of the population of wild freshwater turtles.

Each year females migrate to sandy river banks to lay their eggs. The eggs are harvested for food, and
hatchlings are collected by illegal traders for the global pet trade. The criminals make high profits at the
expense of the suffering of many turtles, which are crammed into cases or small boxes during the illegal
trafficking process. It is important that the judicial system in Hong Kong recognizes the cruelty and high
value that wildlife crime like this smuggling case profits the traffickers; and the high cost of care and

The species is classified as Vulnerable (VN) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species. Pig-nosed Turtles were listed in Appendix II of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2005, recognizing the
vulnerability of the species.

However, it is sometimes possible to find young Pig-nosed Turtles on sale in Hong Kong. Apart from
being illegal to own, this species is unsuitable as a pet as it would require an extremely large aquatic
facility when it reaches full adult size.

What you can do
Today, habitat loss, un-sustainable collection for food, traditional medicine and the wildlife trade are the
major global threats faced by many wild turtles and other wildlife. You can help save these endangered
animals by not buying live wildlife, and not consuming or buying wildlife products. You should also
report any suspected illegal activities involving wildlife to the Police.

2011 Story:

Follow up: Post seizure care and repatriation costs for a consignment of Indonesian Pig-nosed Turtles (Carettochelys insculpta)

Media Enquiry:
Please contact Cindy Luk, Communications Officer of KFBG on 2483 7270 or email at

Pig-nosed Turtles are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to serious and unsustainable
exploitation of the wild populations.

Some of the young turtles now heading back to their native range in Indonesia.

A large group of the turtles soon after their seizure in Hong Kong being re-hydrated at the KFBG Wild
Animal Rescue Centre.

The turtles were carefully placed in plastic boxes with air holes and provided water.

The turtles packed and ready to start their long journey to their native Indonesia.