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Cincinnati CBP Officers Find Smuggled Live Turtles

Release Date: 
November 21, 2016

CINCINNATI—In late July, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati intercepted a shipment of live tortoises at a local express consignment facility. The shipment contained seven Indian Star tortoises, a threatened species, which were turned over to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials who placed the animals under the care of the Cincinnati Zoo.

On July 29, a Detroit CBP officer working a temporary duty assignment in Cincinnati held a shipment from Malaysia for a routine inspection examination. The package was manifested as porcelain doll, and was addressed to an individual in Miami Lakes, Florida.

When officers opened the shipment they found a plastic container that was taped shut with ventilation holes punched through the top. The container held seven small objects concealed by newspaper bedding and individually wrapped in white cloth that was completely covered by tightly wound packing tape. Officers realized the objects were live tortoises when they started removing the cloth on one of the objects and the animal pushed its leg through the opening.

Indian Star Tortoises
Indian Star Tortoises

“This is a vulnerable species because their population is decreasing,” said CBP Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “The successful interception of these seven live tortoises highlights the outstanding work of our officers and our collaborative efforts with the FWS wildlife inspectors at the Port of Louisville, Kentucky to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.”

Indian Star Tortoises are protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but wildlife traders illegally exploit this threatened species in order to meet the international demand for exotic pets. Legal importations of Indian Star tortoises must be accompanied by a CITES Permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

The four female and three male tortoises have completed their quarantine period at the Cincinnati Zoo and are currently part of the reptile exhibit. FWS officials are pursuing legal action against the importer.

CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products. CBP strives to serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.

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Last modified: 
February 9, 2017