Saving The Turtles: Europe’s Largest Illegal Farm Closed

Turtles are one of the oldest reptilian groups with millions of evolutionary years under its shell. The order of the turtle splits into two suborders then divides further into 13 families, 75 genera, and 300 species. Their hard shell protects them against attacks, but by evidence of this story, it does not protect them from human predators.

Busted: Europe’s Illegal Turtle Trade

illegal turtle tradeSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

What the Spanish Civil Guard found one fateful day in August 2018 was alarming. In the Balearic Islands, they discovered a massive criminally led turtle farm. The agency announced the hatchery was the most extensive illegal breeder they’d seen up to the 2018 date. Most turtles confiscated in the raid were considered endangered, vulnerable, or at high risk of extinction depending upon their specific origin.

Where The Effort Began

turtle tradeSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

The investigation into the turtle farm’s activities began in February 2017 at an airport in Mallorca. A shipment obtained by the agency known as the Spanish Guardia Civil after it became apparent the declaration amount was not cohesive with the actual number of turtles included in the shipment. It was this event in secret that led to Operation Coahuila, carried out within the framework of Interpol’s Operation Naultinus, and what ultimately shined a sobering light on this brand of turtle poaching.

How The Hatchery’s Owners Circumvented The Laws

baby turtleSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

The turtles bred in Mallorca smuggled out via specialized reptile and amphibian courier along with falsified documents. The owners also worked with a pet shop in Barcellona to further accomplish the smuggling circuit of the turtles and their eggs. The six criminals involved in the hatchery scheme also was accused of money laundering and offenses against wild flora and fauna.

What The Operation Yielded

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

The bust was crucial for the sheer number of turtles discovered and how highly endangered most of them were. The authorities found somewhere north of 1,100 adults and hatchlings, plus approximately 750 eggs. Within those totals were a couple of hundred females about to bare young. With the range of species seized, that’s more hatchlings to add to the inventory by the dozens. Monetarily, the haul rumored to be in the middle six figures of euro.

Interpol reported the haul included 14 of the 50 most endangered turtle species in the world. Unfortunately, this is just one story of endangered turtle species poaching and trading. As one illegal hatchery gets taken down, 25 more are still in operation, much like scores of other endangered animals.


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