Vietnamese police are trying to find out if there is any hunting ring behind tonnes of dead sea turtles they seized this week on the premises of a handicraft producer.
Environmental police in the south-central city of Nha Trang discovered as much as 4.4 tonnes of dead sea turtles, an endangered wildlife species that needs to be protected, in the warehouses and factories of the producer in Phuoc Dong Commune on Wednesday.
They finished transporting to their storage all the dead turtles on Friday, said Colonel Doan Van Toan, head of the environmental crime investigation department.
An investigation is underway to determine whether there is a ring that hunts and kills sea turtles involved in this case, Colonel Toan added.
Hoang Tuan Hai, the producer, told police officers that he has bought dead turtles from people both inside and outside the city for VND200,000-300,000 (US$9.4- 14) each for four to five years now.
After making the dead animals into attractive art handicraft products, Hai sells them for about VND800,000 ($37.5) apiece to tourists.
Hai added that he did not remember how many dead turtles had been used to make art souvenirs.
“I thought that it is illegal to trade in live sea turtles, not dead ones,” Hai said.
Bui Quang Nghi, an expert at the Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography, said this was the first time he had ever seen such a large number of dead sea turtles seized.
Dead turtles are seen in the warehouse of a handicraft producer in Phuoc Dong Commune, Nha Trang City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
“While we are facing a lot of difficulty to seek and preserve each dead sea turtle, thousands of them were stored there to be processed into art handicrafts for sale,” Nghi said.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Huong, chairman of the Phuoc Dong Commune People’s Committee, said that he had not known about Hai’s using a large number of turtles for his handicraft business.
Colonel Ho Anh Quy, deputy director of the Khanh Hoa Province Police Department, said police officers are coordinating with the provincial People’s Procuracy in investigating the case.
Nha Trang is the capital city of Khanh Hoa.
Nguyen Duyen Thanh, from the Inspectorate of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said sea turtles are among the rare and precious wildlife animals that are 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.