Hundreds of smuggled turtles die

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2001, 12:00am

Hundreds of turtles and tortoises illegally smuggled into Hong Kong have died despite frantic efforts to airlift the creatures to a care centre in the United States.

The Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden said it faced an impossible task to care for 7,500 turtles and tortoises seized by Customs officers last week.

The Tai Po farm appealed to airlines to sponsor the huge rescue effort by transporting the creatures to the Turtle Survival Alliance in Miami.

It warned that all the turtles could die if they were not transported to a warmer climate within two weeks.

Most of the creatures are from tropical countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

In the past week, about 750 turtles and tortoises have died because of dehydration and cold weather. Of these, 556 were endangered species.

They were found packed in boxes in a cargo loading area in Yau Ma Tei on December 11.

It is believed they were on the way to the mainland to be served as food.

They have an estimated street value of about $3.2 million.