The News Minute | August 18, 2014 | 12:54 pm IST
Beijing: Chinese officials on Monday handed over 204 confiscated black pond turtles to Pakistan.
The hand-over ceremony was held in Taxkorgan in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which borders Pakistan, Xinhua reported.
This is the first time China has returned smuggled rare animals to their source country.
It was also a major step for China in combating wildlife poaching and smuggling after it incinerated 6 tonnes of seized ivory stock in January in Dongguan, Guangdong province.
The smuggled turtles were seized in Taxkorgan in June.
Police caught a Pakistani suspect, who smuggled the animals to Taxkorgan, and five Chinese buyers, who said they intended to ship the animals to Guangzhou and Hong Kong for sale.
The black pond turtle is listed in the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, of which China is a contracting member.
The legal protection prohibits international trading of the rare reptile.
According to investigators, the turtles can be sold for over 10,000 yuan ($1,627) each as pets in China.
Wildlife protection officials from Pakistan and representatives from China's State Forestry Administration and the General Administration of Customs attended the hand-over ceremony.
The black pond turtle also known as spotted turtle is commonly found in in southern Pakistan (Indus and Ganges River drainages), northeastern India (Assam), and Bangladesh.