Five rare turtles have been re-homed at Bristol Zoo Gardens after being confiscated from smugglers by customs officials.
It is thought the Malayan box turtles were caught from the wild in south east Asia, bound for China, where they would have been sold into the food market, pet trade, or for use in traditional medicine.
As well as these turtles, around 150 other turtles, of various species, were also seized by customs in Hong Kong, who then worked with the Turtle Survival Alliance to find new homes for the animals.
Tim Skelton, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of reptiles and amphibians, said: “We are pleased to be able to offer a safe new home for these turtles, which were likely to have otherwise been sold and killed.”
He added: “Exact information about them, such as their age, is not known – they could be anywhere between 10 and 30 years old - but we hope to breed them to help boost the captive population of this vulnerable species, as well as to highlight the plight of all south east Asian turtle species.”
The five turtles are currently in the Zoo’s specialist quarantine area, where they will stay until their period of quarantine is over and the Zoo vets give them a clean bill of health.
They will then be moved into the tropical pools in the Zoo’s Reptile House, to join three Malayan box turtles which were re-homed at Bristol Zoo following a previous customs confiscation 10 years ago.
Malayan box turtles have been classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They spend much of their time on the edge of shallow swamps, streams or ponds that are dense with vegetation, but are under threat from habitat destruction and hunters who capture the turtles to sell for use in food and traditional medicine.
For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens visit the zoo website at http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/ or phone 0117 974 7300.