By Made Arya Kencana
Denpasar, Indonesia — Police in Bali have successfully prevented the attempted smuggling of 22 endangered turtles into the island, bringing the number saved from the restaurant trade this month to 55.
Comr. Ambariyadi Wijaya, the Denpasar Police’s chief of detectives, said on Friday that community guards patrolling Pandawa Beach in South Kuta discovered the 22 turtles, all tied and bound, late on Thursday evening.
He said that the green sea turtles were an average of one meter in length and estimated to be at least 50 years old.
“Their resale value is quite high, fetching at least Rp 5 million [$518] per animal,” he said.
The smugglers are believed to have planned to sell the turtles to restaurants for slaughter and consumption, he said.
“We’re trying to get the perpetrators,” Ambariyadi said, adding that they were believed to have fled when the patrol came along.
He added that the perpetrators were in the middle of unloading their cargo.
“They didn’t have time to take the turtles away,” he said.
Ambariyadi also said that police suspected that the group was the same group that attempted to smuggle 33 turtles into the island on Dec. 9.
Soemarsono, the head of the Denpasar Nature Conservancy Office (BKSDA), voiced anger at the continuing attempt to trade the endangered species, saying that his agency was planning a special operation against smuggling syndicates.
He declined to give more details other than saying that some targets had already been identified.
Soemarsono said that some of the newly seized turtles were suffering from dehydration and had wounds. He said the BKSDA would take custody of the animals for rehabilitation before releasing them back to into the sea.
Green sea turtles are listed as endangered and are a protected species under Indonesian law.
There have been at least six turtle smuggling attempts in Bali this year involving hundreds of the animals, Soemarsono said.
Officials have acknowledged that Bali is a profitable smuggling destination because of the continuing high demand for turtle meat, both for consumption and for Hindu ritual sacrifices, despite an official prohibition.