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Trade in endangered reptiles is rampant in Indonesia, wildlife monitoring network says

August 2, 2010 |  6:18 pm

Radiated Tortoise

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The most threatened tortoise in the world is being sold openly at a plant and animal exposition in the heart of Indonesia's capital, highlighting concerns about the rampant -- and growing -- illegal pet trade.

The country has become a major trading hub for endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, including species from Africa, South America and Asia, said Chris Shepherd of TRAFFIC, a British-based international wildlife monitoring network.

While the government has passed legislation banning such illegal trade, dealers continue to blatantly sell endangered species without fear of arrest or prosecution, Shepherd said.

Those found Friday at Jakarta's annual flora and fauna expo -- held from July 2 until Aug. 2 -- included the world's most threatened ploughshare tortoise and the critically endangered radiated tortoises, both from Madagascar. They were priced up to $1,700.

Cages also were filled with rare Indian star tortoises, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species, known as CITES, and the endangered pig-nose tortoise, from Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua, both selling for up to $500.

Vendors told the Associated Press other threatened tortoises and turtles not found on display could easily be obtained for a price.

"Recent surveys, and this expo, have shown that the trade continues and, in fact, now involves more illegally imported species than ever," said Shepherd. "Dealers know full well that it is illegal and are taking advantage of the enforcement agencies' lack of action."

Indonesia, one of the most biologically diverse nations in the world, has for years sold everything from eagles and leopard cats to gibbons as pets in the capital. Shady transactions continue to take place at the popular Pramuka and Jati Negara markets.

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-- Niniek Karmini, Associated Press

Photo: A pet shop employee shows a radiated tortoise, a species native to Madagascar, during a flora and fauna expo in Jakarta on July 29. Credit: Dita Alangkara / Associated Press

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