Jakarta. Papua Police have rescued 1,161 baby pig-nosed turtles, presumably hidden by smugglers at Mopah Airport in Merauke.
The animals were kept in six plastic boxes and hidden in two suitcases left at the airport's waiting room, Merauke Police chief Sr. Comr. Bahara Marpaung said on Tuesday (09/01), as quoted by Antara news agency.
An X-ray examination showed there were turtles inside.
"There are 1,161 baby turtles in both suitcases, and we suspect they were going to be smuggled out of Papua," Bahara said.
The police will seek assistance of the provincial conservation agency to keep the baby pig-nosed turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) alive and return them to their habitat.
The pig-nosed turtle is found only in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. The species is protected under Indonesian law.
The turtles, which have distinctive snout-like noses and webbed feet, are often smuggled from Papua for illegal animal trade.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the pig-nosed turtle as "vulnerable" and trade of the species is restricted.