Ninja Crawlers—Special Investigation of the Interstate and International Turtle Trade

The southeastern United States is home to numerous species of endemic reptiles. The public's desire to possess reptiles, especially turtles, has increased substantially in recent years, perhaps because of the "ninja turtle craze." A new lucrative interstate and international market for the sale of "pet" turtles has developed. Loss of suitable habitats combined with commercialization have depleted populations of several species resulting in their being listed as threatened or endangered or otherwise being legally protected. Rareness of a species increases market demand. Covert investigators with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Game and Fish Division and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service infiltrated operations in the turtle trade in Alabama and Louisiana. After 12 months of work, targeted suspects were identified and prosecuted.

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