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Police officer claimed smuggled turtles rescued from soup pot

A Czech police officer caught with 50 rare turtles stuffed into socks in his luggage claimed that he had purchased the live animals at an open-air market in Hong Kong because he didn't want to see them end up in the cooking pot.

Jiří Kolář, 42, was stopped by police at Vienna airport and said that he planned to sell the rare turtles which include specimens from six protected species once he got back home.

He claimed he had not realised they were protected and it simply felt sorry for the reptile's which were being sold as a delicacy by a Chinese man to locals in Hong Kong.

An expert from the reptile section of the nearby Schonbrunn zoo in Vienna which was given the turtles to look after said they would be worth around €20,000 on the black market.

None of the animals had died despite their ordeal but all were badly dehydrated and needed urgent attention.

The animals will eventually be put back into nature conservation programs for protected species.

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