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A box turtle makes its way across the ground in the country near Commerce, Texas, USA, May 8, 2018. EPA-EFE/FILE/LARRY W. SMITH
A box turtle makes its way across the ground in the country near Commerce, Texas, USA, May 8, 2018. EPA-EFE/FILE/LARRY W. SMITH

Spanish police take down prolific turtle smuggling ring

Spanish officials say the operation was the largest illegal turtle nursery in Europe.

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Spanish police have arrested three people and seized over 1,000 turtles and 750 eggs in an operation to dismantle what they believe to be one of the most prolific underground smuggling networks dedicated to the aquatic reptiles in Europe, officials said Wednesday. 

Police detained two people of German nationality who allegedly ran an illicit turtle farm and nursery in a rural house on the Balearic island of Mallorca and a man of Spanish nationality who owned an exotic pet store in Barcelona is suspected of laundering the animals. 

"We have seized more than 1,100 turtles of varying species and more than 250 eggs. Such, we have dismantled the largest illegal turtle nursery in Europe," said Spain's Civil Guard police in a statement. "The species of turtles seized include the box turtle (Coura, sp.), which are considered at extremely high risk of extinction, as well as others endemic to Mexico, the United States and Canada."

Police also raided the shop owner's property, located in a rural area of the Barcelona region, where they found several pools and enclosures that contained rare and protected species of turtles.

Many were showing signs of neglect. 

The police operation and investigation began in February of 2017 when several rare box turtles were detected in transit through Mallorca's Palma airport.

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