Mexican authorities seized 15,53 turtles of various species, 14,793 of them alive, at the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) in a shipment bound for China, reported the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) on Tuesday. The seizure of the chelonians was consummated during an inspection visit carried out by Profepa, with the collaboration of the General Administration of Customs, to a shipment of 158 wooden packages, the institution said.

Upon detecting that the boxes contained both live and dead wildlife, the inspectors proceeded to assess their conditions and decided to transfer them to a conservation center where there would be a better situation for the animals. The boxes with the chelonians were opened and checked in the facilities of the Center for Wildlife Conservation and Research (CIVS) of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) in Los Reyes La Paz, State of Mexico.

Profepa explained that the objective of the review was to quantify the number of turtles, their taxonomic identification, verify their legal origin, the existence of export permits to China, and verify their risk category according to Mexican standards. During the review, the inspectors identified a total of 15,053 freshwater turtles of the species Kinosternon leucostomum, Staurotypus triporcatus, Trachemys sp., and Claudius angustatus, according to Profepa.

Among the turtles, 14,793 were found alive and 260 dead, among which were observed animals that fall into the category of subject to special protection, threatened and endangered, according to the standard NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010. Those responsible for the shipment of turtles were unable to prove the legal origin of the total number of turtles found in the 158 boxes, according to Profepa.

Given the situation, the agency decided to establish precautionary insurance for all the turtles, dead and alive. In addition, the Mexican environmental protection authorities decided to file a criminal complaint with the Attorney General's Office (FGR) for the possible crime of wildlife trafficking, which is occurring at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.