Chinese traffickers arrested for trying to smuggle 200kg of turtle shells in Indonesia

MAKASSAR, Indonesia (AFP) - Two Chinese men have been arrested in Indonesia for attempting to smuggle 200kg of illicit turtle shells out of the country, police said on Thursday (Feb 1), as they try to stamp out a lucrative illegal wildlife trade.

Acting on a tip, authorities said they raided a house in Makassar on the island of Sulawesi Wednesday and found the massive haul of turtle shells stuffed into boxes.

The suspects, 25-year-old Chen Jianyi and Zhong Qiushan, 31, admitted to buying the shells in Indonesia's Papua province and then shipping them by boat to Makassar, police said.

The suspected traffickers planned to move the shells to China where they would be used to make accessories, trinkets and souvenirs, according to authorities.

"They admitted they would sell the turtle shells in the local and international market," local police chief detective Ivan Wahyudi told AFP.

Turtles, which are under threat due to poaching and habitat destruction, are protected under Indonesian law.

The men, who were living in Indonesia, could face up to five years in prison if they are found guilty of breaking the country's conservation law.

The announcement comes just a day after Jakarta police said a group of suspected animal traffickers were arrested for selling crocodiles, pythons and other protected species through Facebook and the messaging service WhatsApp.

Indonesia is one of the world's most biodiverse countries, making it a lucrative market for the illegal trade in wildlife which has brought some endangered species to the brink of extinction.

A lack of resources and corruption are undermining law enforcement efforts, environmentalists say.

Almost all turtle species are endangered. Their eggs are considered a delicacy and they are also slaughtered for their meat, skin and shells.

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