Tallahassee, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) charged two men with what they call “ the state’s largest seizure of turtles in recent history.”
Officers say a tip back in February 2018 started the investigation into what they call a turtle trafficking ring that involved thousands of animals and thousands of dollars.
On October 18 wildlife officers arrested Michael Boesenberg, 39, and Michael Clemons, 23, both of Fort Myers, Fl. and charged them with poaching and selling the turtles on the black market.
Most went to large-scale reptile dealers and illegal distributors, who would then ship them overseas on the black market with a majority of the animals ending up in Asia, according to a press release.
The turtles would fetch between $300 and $10,000 dollars each.
Officers estimate one month of turtles would net approximately $60,000.
The FWC documented more than 4,000 turtles illegally taken and sold over a 6-month period in the release, including Florida box turtles, Eastern box turtles, striped mud turtles, Florida mud turtles, chicken turtles, Florida softshell turtles, Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles, spotted turtles and diamondback terrapins.
When investigators arrived with a search warrant they say they found the poachers in possession of hundreds of turtles, along with the skull and shell of a protected Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.
Biologists evaluated all of the animals for health and species identification and were able to return more than 600 of them back into the wild.