Shanghai Airport Customs Officers Seize 79 Live Turtles

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Slow and steady may win the race, but these turtles didn’t make it across the finish line to beat Chinese customs officers. Seventy-nine live turtles were found in a package at the Shanghai airport on Saturday, presumably headed toward China’s animal black market.

Each turtle was found wrapped in a stocking, designed to provide ventilation and warmth. The return mailing address on the box was in Chiba, Japan.

(MORE: Whither the Pangolin? Wildlife Smuggling Alive and Well in Asia)

The turtles were Japanese pond turtles, frequently said to be kept as pets in Japan. Though the species of turtle isn’t threatened, their numbers have decreased in recent years because of habitat loss.

The desire to have rare pets is slowly gaining popularity in China, leading to the import of illegal animals. One zoo in Shanghai reported in 2010 that it was almost “too full” of exotic animals that had been abandoned by their owners. And if having a unique pet isn’t an option, they don’t mind dyeing their pets to add a little extra pizzazz.

Quarantine officials said that the turtles would be either “returned or destroyed.” Let’s hope it’s the former.

MOREThe Case of the Smuggled Turtles Ends in Two Arrests (People, Not Turtles)

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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