Big spenders in China are targeting US species of turtles and tortoises as collector’s items and cuisine – Los Angeles Times

Federal wildlife inspectors were randomly checking packages headed for China a month ago at a downtown Los Angeles post office when they were alarmed to find 170 turtles hidden in men’s socks in a cardboard box with no return address.

But it was not just another creative attempt by global animal traffickers serving wealthy collectors in China willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for critically endangered turtles and tortoises.

Conservationists say the case involving 70 spotted turtles and 100 eastern box turtles confiscated on May 9 is a troubling example of how China’s appetite for turtles has grown to include relatively common native species in the United States.

“This case signals a new and distressing trend: poachers in the U.S. willing to swap our own wildlife for a few dollars from Chinese collectors,” Paul Gibbons, chief operating officer of the nonprofit Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Center in Ventura County, said.