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US jails trouser turtle smuggler

BBC News BBC News 12/04/2016
Red-eared slider turtles are seen at an enclosure at the Manila Zoo 2012 © Getty Images Red-eared slider turtles are seen at an enclosure at the Manila Zoo 2012

A man stopped by Canadian border guards with 51 live turtles hidden in his trousers has been jailed for nearly five years in the US for smuggling.

Kai Xu, a Canadian of Chinese origin, had repeatedly visited Michigan to buy and ship thousands of turtles to China, a court heard.

He told the judge he had sold the reptiles to help pay university fees.

Xu also thanked federal agents for ending "the darkness of his greed and ignorance", AP news agency reported.

Prosecutors said Xu had shipped the turtles to China, where they are coveted as pets, from Canada and the US or paid people to fly them there in their luggage.

In 2014, US fisheries and wildlife officers tracked Xu across the border between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, following a tip-off from a postal worker.

Native species

He was then stopped by Canadian border guards who found 41 turtles taped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs, prosecutors said.

Court records said the turtles were all North American species - Eastern box turtles, Red-eared sliders and Diamondback Terrapins.

Xu was charged with shipping the reptiles overseas without a permit and had faced a maximum 10 year prison sentence. He had pleaded guilty to the charge.

His lawyer, Matthew Borgula, told the judge in Ann Arbor federal court, Michigan, that his client was not a "sophisticated international dealer", adding that hiding turtles inside his trousers was "not a good way to get them across the border".

Judge John Corbett O'Meara said: "We don't have a whole lot of cases exactly like this every day."

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