Operation Shellshock Breaks Up Reptile Smuggling Ring in New York

On March 19, 2009, New York’s state Department of Environmental Conservation announced one of its largest and most extensive undercover operation into illegal wildlife trafficking that resulted in the arrest of 18 individuals on 14 felonies and 11 misdemeanors for poaching, smuggling and illegally selling protected reptiles and amphibians.  The two-year undercover investigation, called “Operation Shellshock,” uncovered a lucrative, international black market trade in New York’s native, protected wildlife that was conducted through the Internet and via herpetological shows.  Over 2,400 individual turtles, snakes and salamanders were involved in the crimes, including New York’s timber rattlesnakes and wood turtles shipped out of state and out of the country to support high-end collectors, thousands of snapping turtles laundered through a Louisiana turtle farm and shipped illegally to China, and poachers stealing turtle eggs as soon as they were laid.  The number of species was extensive, including endangered Massasauga rattlesnakes, timber rattlesnakes, copperheads and eastern hognose snakes, snapping turtles, Blandings turtles, box turtles, North American wood turtles and two Yellow Spotted Amazon River turtles.

For more information, see: http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/52868.html