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Detroit Zoo Caring for over 1,000 Smuggled Turtles

Detroit Zoo Caring for over 1,000 Smuggled TurtlesReid_Sally_115

(Detroit Zoo Press Release, Oct. 3, 2014)

More than a thousand turtles – some endangered – found stuffed into rubber snow boots and cereal boxes inside a Canadian man’s luggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week are receiving care at the Detroit Zoo.

The man was arrested by federal agents before he could board a flight to Shanghai, China, with the contraband turtles. The incident is connected to an international smuggling ring led by another Canadian man who oakland115 reikiattempted to cross the Detroit-Windsor border in August with 51 turtles concealed in his pants.

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) was contacted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agents and asked to assist with the turtles’ care while the investigation is underway.

The 1,007 confiscated reptiles – mostly juvenile hatchlings less than a month old – include more than 750 diamondback terrapins as well as red-necked pond turtles (also known as Kwangtung river turtles), spotted turtles, wood turtles, Blanding’s turtles, red-eared sliders and African spur-thighed tortoises.

“The conditions of the turtles vary. It isn’t surprising that some are not doing well given the way they were petsittingbeing smuggled,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer. “Most are not of conservation concern, but some are endangered species.”

The confiscated turtles are being housed behind the scenes at the Detroit Zoo as reptile staff work to provide proper care and diets. Once the investigation is complete, the turtles will be transferred back to the USFWS for permanent placement.

The Detroit Zoological Society is a nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo. Situated on 125 acres of naturalistic habitats, the Detroit Zoo is located at 10 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue off I-696 in Royal Oak, Mich. The Detroit Zoo is open 362 days a year, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the day after Labor Day through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March. Admission is $14 for adults 15 to 61 and $10 for children 2 to 14, senior citizens 62 and older and active military with ID; children under 2 are admitted free. The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March; closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission to the Nature Zoo is free; however, a State of Michigan Recreation Passport is required for all personal vehicles to enter Belle Isle State Park. For more information, call (248) 541-5717 or visi t

For previous turtle-related stories see:


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