The “largest illegal turtle hatchery in Europe” was shut down by Spanish police on the island of Majorca on Wednesday. Three people were arrested and three others detained by the Civil Guard. They are charged with offenses against wild fauna and flora, smuggling of protected species and money laundering.
The European law enforcement agency, Europol, said that about 750 eggs and 1,100 turtles, including 200 pregnant females, were seized on the Balearic Island. Authorities found rare specimens, including 14 of the world’s 50 most endangered turtle species, from Canada, Mexico, the United States and South Asia.
According to the authorities, the industrial farm was created in 2009 and has continued to grow until it was dismantled on Wednesday. Police were first alerted to the presence of an illegal hatchery on the island in February 2017 when a cargo of turtles was intercepted at Majorca airport accompanied by documents containing false declarations.
National Geographic reports that three suspects have been arrested, including two Germans and the owner of an exotic pet store in Barcelona. Three others are also under investigation. If they are unable to provide proof of ownership they they will likely be charged with smuggling of protected species and may also face money laundering charges.
The raid was carried out under Operation “Coahuila”, which is led by the Spanish Civil Guard, and has rescued many endangered reptiles from America and Asia. Europol stress that Asian and black turtles are classified as vulnerable and at high risk of extinction in their countries of origin, where they are strictly protected.
The trafficking that passed through the Balearic Islands used smugglers specialised in the transport of reptiles and amphibians. The specimens were then transported to a Barcelona animal shop specialising in exotic wildlife. The turtles rescued in Majorca will be integrated into conservation programs, which are mostly provided by zoos.