An cargo consignment documented as 2,200 kilograms of fresh fruits shocked even the most seasoned customs officials at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Tuesday when they discovered at least 700 snakes and over 3,400 pig-nosed turtles inside.
“The document just said ‘fresh fruits,’ ” said Gatot Sugeng Wibowo, chief of investigations at the customs office.
Gatot said the illicit cargo was being exported by a company identified only as PT IDT, located in West Jakarta, and was scheduled to be shipped to Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific flight on Tuesday.
Gatot did not say whether police had tracked down PT IDT’s executives. “These snakes and turtles are mostly used to make soups and sex-enhancing drugs,” he said.
Following a thorough check and seizure by the airport’s quarantine department, it was revealed that at least 25 bags contained Chinese rat snakes and six other bags contained 3,492 pig-nosed turtles. In total, the cargo was worth at least Rp 5.7 billion ($616,000).
He said that the two people in charge of the packages were being interrogated.
“They have not been named as suspects yet,” Gatot said, without elaborating.
Gatot said airport officials became suspicious after seeing two tons of fresh fruits scheduled for shipment to Hong Kong.
“According to our procedures, we have to check any unusual export activity at the airport, so we opened the packages. That’s when we found the turtles and snakes,” Gatot said. The smugglers violated a 1990 law on the conservation of natural resources and a 1992 law on animal-quarantine regulations. They could face five years in prison and fines of up to Rp 100 million ($10,800).
The pig-nosed turtles, found in Papua, are sought mostly for their eggs. Their exports are regulated in Indonesia.
In December, police arrested a man accused of smuggling 10 rare kangaroos by boat from New Guinea island.
Five of the kangaroos died and the surviving five were given to a Surabaya animal sanctuary.
Illegal trade in rare and exotic animals is rampant in Indonesia, owing to poor law enforcement and the wide range of exotic species found here.