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Wildlife Watch

Crime Blotter: Orangutan Skulls, Turtle Eggs, and More

A weekly roundup of wildlife crimes.

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A male orangutan clings to a tree in a national park in Borneo. Two Malaysian citizens are accused of smuggling orangutan skulls and other animal parts into the U.S.


Every Sunday, we note some of the previous week’s wildlife crime arrests and convictions around the world.

IVORY TRAFFICKING: Authorities in Gabon, home to half of Africa’s endangered forest elephants, arrested two men in connection with the seizure of 440 pounds (representing about 20 elephants) of ivory, reported The Guardian. One of the men worked for Gabon’s water and forest department.

ORANGUTAN SMUGGLING: Two Malaysian citizens were arrested in Oregon and accused of owning an online business that regularly smuggled endangered wildlife into the United States, announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They allegedly used mail parcels to smuggle orangutan skulls and other animal parts.

LION POISONING: Two herdsman from the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya were arrested for allegedly planting the body of a dead cow laced with poison in response to an earlier lion attack on their herds, National Geographic reported. Eleven vultures and three lions, which were part of the Marsh Pride—a family of cats featured in the BBC documentary Big Cat Diaries—died from the poisoning.

ILLEGAL LOGGING: Law enforcement in Cambodia’s Mondolikiri province arrested five men—two Cambodians and three ethnic Vietnamese—after finding more than 40 lengths of illegally logged wood in their vehicles, according to The Cambodia Daily. The same day, authorities in the Pursat province also arrested two soldiers moving illegally logged wood in the back of a truck.

TURTLE SMUGGLING: Forest officials in Odisha, an eastern Indian state on the Bay of Bengal, foiled an attempt by poachers to smuggle a sack of narrow-headed soft shell turtles, reported The TeCake, a news website in India. The smugglers escaped but left behind at least 12 turtles in good condition.

ENDANGERED SPECIES SALES: A judge sentenced a trader based in Lancashire, England, caught dealing in rare and endangered species—including a dolphin skull and sperm whale’s teeth—to 24 weeks in prison, according to the Lancashire Telegraph.

TURTLE EGG TRAFFICKING: Two people from Hemet, California, have been indicted in connection with the smuggling of more than 900 eggs from olive ridley and kemp’s ridley sea turtles into the U.S. from Mexico, says Fox San Diego. It’s illegal to trade those species or their parts without permission from both governments.

TIMBER SMUGGLING: Police seized 1,000 tons of timber in the state of Kachin and in Sagaing region in Myanmar that was bound for the Chinese border, reported the Myanmar Times. Authorities don’t know the identity of the smugglers.

Fact of the Week: By the turn of the century, the sale of animal skulls and bones by mail-order operations and over the Internet was no longer an obscure hobby, according to the New York Times, which called it a “growing worldwide business.”

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

Follow Jani Actman on Twitter.



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