Police find thousands of dead sea turtles in Nha Trang warehouses

The Environment Police Agency and Khanh Hoa Province’s police have found thousands of dead highly endangered sea turtles in two warehouses of a fine-art enterprise in the village of Phuoc Loi of Nha Trang City.

The police checked the two warehouses, owned by a man named Hoang Tuan Hai, 42, on November 20. At a 600sq.m warehouse in the village of Phuoc Loi, the authorities seized 29 sacks containing dead sea turtles, with a weight of 586 kg. The task force continued to check the second warehouse in the village of Phuoc Ha and discovered a larger volume of dead sea turtles, many of them soaked in chemical tanks.

Turtles were piled up to the height of an adult. According to an investigator, the authorities would need several days to check the volume of rare animals in the warehouses. This is the largest ever case of hunting, processing, and consumption of rare sea turtles in Vietnam.

According to inspectors, the warehouse owners did not have any documents proving the origin of the animals. Colonel Dao Van Toan, head of the Environmental Police Division of Khanh Hoa Province, said there were some fake turtles. He also said that it is not sure whether this case would be dealt with under criminal or administrative procedures.

Sea turtles are rare animal species at risk of extinction, and are strictly protected by law.

Residents of Phuoc Dong Commune said the shop owner had been smuggling sea turtles for about 10 years. In 2007, the owner’s brother was found breeding hundreds of turtles and was penalised.

Chinese people bought the turtles to bury under their house columns for the geomancy benefits, the owner said.

He bought turtles from restaurants around the province, which served their meat and gave him the rest of their bodies.

The shops and their waste water smelled of chemicals, and the crabs and snails living around the shops died, local residents said.

Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung, deputy director of Education for Nature-Vietnam, the agency that informed the police of the smuggling, said the police’s quick response showed an effort to protect endangered wild animals. But more effort from the people’s court was needed, she said.

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