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Rescued Turtles Get New Home at Buffalo Zoo

Yellow Spotted Amazon River Turtle
Yellow Spotted Amazon River Turtle

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-829516.mp3

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Zoo has taken over the care of two endangered tropical turtles that were seized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in an undercover investigation.

The undercover operations most people are familiar with are the ones conducted to seize drugs, or weapons. But the DEC seizes a much more rare kind of contraband. The DEC confiscated the turtles during an in-depth investigation into the black market trafficking of reptiles and amphibians.

Donna Fernandez is President of the Buffalo Zoo. She said they have an agreement with the DEC to take exotic animals seized in the raids.

Fernandez said the Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtles are very endangered because of habitat loss. But she said they are threatened further still by two-legged predators.

"These illegal pet dealers just go in and wipe out whole populations where they're found," said Fernandez. "Unfortunately, because of the demand in the pet trade they've really declined."

Fernandez said it was a two-year investigation that netted more than 2,400 turtles, snakes and salamanders. And most are not exotic animals. Fernandez said rattle snakes and other common reptiles are particularly popular in the black market trade.

"They are collecting them from parks or areas where they find them," said Fernandez. "These people are completely unethical. They'll take every speciman they find. And then they are either sent to dealers elsewhere in New York State or shipped over seas, because there's a huge market for turtles in Asia."

She said most of the animals recovered were native New York species that will be returned to their natural habitat. But the tropical turtles will have a new home at the zoo's new rainforest exhibit. And they will have company. The zoo already has four of that particular species and two of another spotted variety.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.