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>> Conservationists have been known to fight long and hard against rhino and elephant poaching on the plains of Africa but now turtle smuggling is on the rise. Not in Africa but in suburban New Jersey contributing to an estimated $19 billion a year global black market for wildlife trafficking.
Officials say smugglers target the US for its rich diversity of turtles including the protected diamondback terrapins.>> You can see how beautiful they are.>> Reuters photographer Carlo Allegri visited the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey which has helped law enforcement return thousands of confiscated turtles to the wild.
>> People are smuggling a number of reptiles mostly over to the Asian market. And the reason that the diamondback terrapin's are particularly prized is because of the beauty that they possess in their shell.>> Smugglers also supply the Asian market especially China with turtles for consumption. According to US officials, because they're said to have health benefits and symbolize longevity in some Asian cultures.
Poached diamondback terrapins are often plucked from New Jersey beaches and sold for up to $3,000 each.>> Biologists and scientists from the Wetlands Institute attend conferences in the area in regards to turtles and nesting areas and stuff. And they have to be very careful at these conferences not to divulge the locations of their studies and where the turtles are, because smugglers are attending those conferences and getting that information and going and digging up the turtles and turtle eggs and using that to export.
>> A suspect is facing trial in the coming days for trafficking some 3,500 of these reptiles, after allegedly snatching them from coastal marshes in Southern New Jersey.