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Zimbabwe: Chinese men arrested for eating rare tortoises

Four Chinese nationals face deportation from Zimbabwe after being caught killing and eating endangered Bell's Hinged tortoises.
Chinese eat tortoises 20120218Enlarge
A vendor sleeps next to giant tortoises she sells for eating in a market in Guangzhou, China. The rare tortoises are around twenty years old and sell for $150 each. (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Zimbabwe police have arrested four Chinese nationals for killing and eating endangered tortoises.

During a raid on the Chinese workers' homes near Bikita, in southeastern Zimbabwe, police and animal welfare officials found 13 live Bell's Hinged tortoises living in steel drums without water or food, according to the state-run Zimbabwe Herald.

They also found the meat and skeletal remains of a further 40 tortoises.

The Bell's Hinged Tortoise is listed as an endangered species under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II.

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Zhang Hongyuan, Chen Caijan, Lin Guibin and Shi Jiahua had bought the tortoises from the local community "for personal consumption," the Herald report said.

Members of the community said in a statement that the tortoises had been dropped into boiling water while still alive in order to separate the meat from the shell.

The ZNSPCA said the four Chinese have admitted to breaking the country's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. They have also admitted to being employed in Zimbabwe without correct immigration documents, according to the Herald.

"The four men are now detained pending deportation," said Ed Lanca from the ZNSPCA.

"As an organization we are concerned with the increasing cases of cruelty to all animals within Zimbabwe," Lanca said. "Our wildlife remains a legacy for future generations of Zimbabweans and we should jealously guard their well being."

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