Up to eight tonnes of dead endangered sea turtles have been seized in central Vietnam where over four tonnes of the same wildlife were confiscated a month ago.
A team of police and inspectors found 7-8 tonnes of dead sea turtles in four warehouses when they carried out a sudden inspection at the house of Vu Thi Hai Thanh in Nha Trang City – the capital of Khanh Hoa Province in the south-central region – on Friday.
They said the turtles are an endangered wildlife species that needs to be protected.
Two casks in which turtles were soaked in water mixed with chemicals were also discovered at the house, located in Phuoc Dong Commune.
Thanh failed to show any documents related to the origin of the dead animals, just saying that they were owned by Hoang Tuan Hai, a 42-year-old man who lived in the same commune.
The team moved on to question Hai and he was unable to present any certificate of business registration as well as documents to prove the origin of the dead turtles.
Hai admitted that he had bought the endangered animals from local fishermen for VND200,000-800,000 (US$9.4-37.4) each.
He told the inspectors that 10 days earlier, he asked Thanh, an acquaintance of his, to allow him to store the animals in her house and secured her agreement.
The team has transported the dead turtles to the Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography for storage, pending verification and resolution in accordance with the law.
On November 19, the Nha Trang environmental police also discovered 4.4 tonnes of the same dead sea turtles in the warehouses and art handicraft factories operated by Hai.
The man could not provide any documents to show their origin and told police officers that he had purchased the dead turtles from people both inside and outside the city for VND200,000-300,000 ($9.4-14) each for four to five years. After making the endangered animals into attractive art handicrafts, Hai sold them to tourists for about VND800,000 ($37.4) apiece.
An investigation has been launched to determine whether there is a ring that hunts and kills sea turtles involved in this case, said Colonel Dao Van Toan, head of the Khanh Hoa environmental crime investigation department.
Nguyen Duyen Thanh, from the Inspectorate of the Khanh Hoa Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said sea turtles are among the rare and precious wildlife to be on the verge of extinction, so they are being protected strictly worldwide.
Vietnam now prohibits exploiting, trading, collecting, raising, storing or processing sea turtles, Thanh said.