Rare Malayan box turtles get new homes at Bristol zoo

Keeper holding turtle - Bristol Zoo The reptiles are believed to have been captured in the wild in south-east Asia.

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Five rare turtles that were confiscated from smugglers in Hong Kong have been rehomed at Bristol Zoo.

The Malayan box turtles were bound for China to be sold for their meat, used as pets or used in traditional medicine.

The creatures were some of 150 turtles of various species that were seized by customs officials in Hong Kong.

The turtles, which are in quarantine, are believed to have been captured in the wild in south-east Asia.

The customs officials worked with the Turtle Survival Alliance to find them new homes.

'Vulnerable species'

Tim Skelton, Bristol Zoo's curator of reptiles and amphibians, said: "We are pleased to be able to offer a safe new home for these turtles, which were likely to have otherwise been sold and killed.

"Exact information about them, such as their age, is not known.

"They could be anywhere between 10 and 30 years old, but we hope to breed them to help boost the captive population of this vulnerable species, as well as to highlight the plight of all south-east Asian turtle species."

Malayan box turtles, which usually live on the edge of swamps, streams or ponds, have been classified as 'vulnerable' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

They are threatened by the destruction of their habitat, and hunters.

A zoo spokesman said the five animal would join three other Malayan box turtles that had also been seized by customs officials 10 years ago.

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