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By Michael Kepp
Brazil issued 18 fines totaling 7.2 million reais ($2.3 million) for poaching endangered Amazon river turtles and their eggs, according to IBAMA, the enforcement arm of the Environment Ministry.
During the crackdown, which began in September, IBAMA issued the fines for illegally capturing 199 yellow-spotted Amazon river turtles ( Podocnemis unifilis), 26 giant Amazon river turtles ( Podocnemis expansa), and eight red-headed Amazon river turtles ( Podocnemis erythrocephala), along with 188 eggs in sustainable development reserves bisected by two Amazon River tributaries in western Acre and Amazonas states.
“Brazil prohibits the capture of all wildlife, unless it is being hunted for subsistence consumption, and given the quantity of Amazon river turtles that IBAMA seized, the hunters clearly planned to illegally sell them and their eggs, both considered culinary delicacies, to restaurants and vendors at food fairs,” Roberto Lacava, head of IBAMA’s Amazon river turtle protection program, told Bloomberg Environment Oct. 13.
The first two species—which are among the largest river turtles found in South America—are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All three species are protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“The fines were very high fines because Brazilian law allows IBAMA to issue financial penalties for commercially hunting any CITES-protected species that are 10 times higher than for non-CITES-protected species,” Lacava said.
The poachers, who were not arrested, likely belonged to Amazon riverside communities. Lacava said he did not know whether they belonged to an organized animal-trafficking ring.
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