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pagong.jpg (Photo : Reuters)

Over 1,000 exotic reptiles were seized by customs officials last Dec. 25, 2014, in the southern city of Shenzhen. The animals which were hidden in boxes were composed of tortoises, frogs and lizards and were all undeclared. Huanggang customs officials found the boxes inside a truck.

Upon questioning, the truck driver admitted that he is a smuggler who deals in endangered species trade and that his cargo was supposed to be transported to mainland China. He further admitted that he apparently makes lots of profits selling the animals either online or directly to consumers as exotic pets.

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An inventory of the entire lot revealed 1,002 Siebenrock's snake-necked turtles, six Asian brown tortoises, 23 leopard tortoises, 99 blue-tongued skinks and 62 green tree frogs. Two of the species, the Asian brown tortoise and the leopard tortoise, are considered endangered species and are currently under government protection. 

The Chinese government is rigid in its implementation of laws concerning endangered wildlife. Violators are faced with five to 10 years in prison and some get life sentences, depending on the severity of violations. 

However, despite intensive government efforts, China's exotic pet trade is a booming business and does not show signs of slowing down. Smugglers risk the odds of harsh punishment against profits earned in the illicit trade. 

The Chinese government is an avid supporter of environmental campaigns. In May, the government pledged a $10-million support to the African government for the conservation of African wildlife.