Rare turtles stolen from Hong Kong village house two months after similar theft prompted owner to upgrade security

Rooftop raider escapes with 23 endangered reptiles worth HK$900,000

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 7:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 10:19pm

Twenty-three endangered turtles worth HK$900,000 were stolen from the roof of a New Territories village house on Sunday, even though security had been upgraded after a raid two months earlier.

Thirteen Chinese three-striped box turtles, also known as kam chin kwai (golden coin turtle), were stolen in May from the three-storey house in Lai Chi Shan village off Tat Wan Road, Tai Po.

Police believe thieves struck between May 14 and 16 when the family were out of town. The owner then fitted security cameras to the front and back doors and installed windows and railings on the roof.

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An investigation showed the latest raid happened when the family went out for dinner.

“This time, raiders climbed up the house along drainpipes and went to the roof to steal,” a police source said on Monday, adding that this part of the house was not covered by surveillance cameras.

He said it was possible two thieves were involved. “One climbed up the house to steal and the other acted as lookout downstairs.”

The break-in was discovered when the family returned home and the owner called police shortly before 10pm.

The villager told officers that he had a licence to keep the endangered species – 15 Chinese three-striped box turtles and eight red-necked pond turtles – as pets.

Officers combed the area, but no one was arrested.

Another source said it was possible the stolen turtles would be sold on the black market in Hong Kong or smuggled to mainland China for sale.

“The golden coin turtle is said to have anti-cancer properties and is used for medicine on the mainland,” this source said. “It is also the main ingredient in turtle jelly.”

Detectives from Tai Po police station are investigating whether the break-ins were carried out by the same gang.

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Chinese three-striped box turtles and red-necked pond turtles are both listed on Appendix II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and regulated under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance.

Importing or exporting endangered species without a licence is an offence under the ordinance and carries a maximum penalty of a HK$5 million fine and two years’ imprisonment.

On Boxing Day in 2014, four robbers stole 12 three-striped box turtles in a pre-dawn raid at a village house in Lau Fau Shan. In 2007, more than 60 golden coin turtles were stolen from a house in Sheung Shui after six masked robbers threatened a woman and her daughter with knives and tied the pair up.