Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Chinese accused of looting Zimbabwe tortoises

Several arrests have been made in relation to the disappearance and death of young tortoise which is a delicacy in China. An animal welfare organisation in Zimbabwe has accused Chinese nationals of looting baby tortoises at a nature reserve in Harare, raising fears the endangered species will soon become extinct. Tortoises are considered a delicacy in China and reportedly fetch high prices in the Asian country’s restaurants.

Mr William Nduku, the director of Wildlife Environment Zimbabwe, told a recent conservation feedback meeting, that the theft of tortoises at the reserve had become a major cause for concern. “We used to have some Chinese nationals coming here on the pretext of seeing the baby tortoises, but they would put them in their pockets.” Mr Nduku said “We understand they have turned to rural areas where they are paying people huge sums of money for the tortoises.” He said security had been tightened at the conservancy and several suspects were arrested for stealing tortoises. Mr Nduku said Chinese visitors were also now being subjected to tighter screening procedures to curb the thefts.
Security alert
“We had to put our security on high alert and we managed to make several arrests,” Mr Nduku said, adding that the suspects were handed over to the police. “What we now do is provide them with an escort team whenever they come here because we are concerned about the safety of the tortoises around here.”

In February, four Chinese expatriate workers were taken to court over the killing of the rare Bell’s Hinged tortoises. Police and wildlife officials found meat and skeletal remains of 40 tortoises at the workers’ home in Masvingo province. The reptiles had been dropped into boiling water while still alive in order to separate its meat from the shell. A further 13 tortoises were found in steel drums. Thousands of Chinese nationals have settled in Zimbabwe over the last few years after being attracted by the booming mining industry.

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