By Keith Matheny
Canadian border agents were likely shell-shocked.
A 22-year-old Windsor man crossing into Canada from Detroit on July 6 via the Ambassador Bridge was stopped for a secondary inspection. In his vehicle, hidden in a storage compartment for seats, officers discovered 76 live turtles and tortoises.
Border service officers arrested Xin Hong Tong, who is charged with smuggling, failure to report the animals, making false statements and attempting to evade payment of duties and taxes.
The arrest highlights the lucrative, illicit world of trafficking exotic animals, their parts or their products. The U.S. is second only to China as a consumer of the illegal items, and the worldwide black-market trade is in the billions of dollars, according to Ed Grace, deputy director of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Windsor arrest came five days after President Barack Obama issued an executive order to enhance coordination of U.S. efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and assist foreign governments in combating it and related organized crime.
Canadian officials did not release all the types of turtles recovered in the stop, but placed their value at more than $6,000 in U.S. funds. The seizure included several marginated tortoises, which originate from an area near Greece and Albania and require certification of captive breeding before sale under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, an international antismuggling treaty.
Grace noted that turtles can be smuggled as food items or, more commonly, for the pet trade. More....