August 28, 2007 / 10:17 PM / 12 years ago

Mexico seizes thousands of smuggled turtle eggs

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican police have seized tens of thousands of eggs of endangered turtles from a group of smugglers in the southern state of Oaxaca, where the eggs are a delicacy believed to have aphrodisiac powers.

Police arrested six people when a search at a police roadblock near a Oaxacan beach turned up 57,000 Olive Ridley turtle eggs, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley turtles have landed on the state’s Pacific beaches in recent days, part of an annual egg-laying migration.

The eggs are a traditional part of the diet on Oaxaca’s sweltering coastal plains, where markets openly display them alongside turtle meat, despite laws prohibiting their sale.

Turtle products are valued for their flavor and many people believe the eggs have aphrodisiac properties.

Olive Ridley turtles, found in the Americas and Asia, are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, although their numbers seem to be rising in the Pacific because of conservation measures.

The small turtles have been spotted by ships far out to sea and they return to the same beaches each year to lay and bury in the sand up to 100 eggs each.

Scientists disagree over what triggers the landings. After gathering offshore, thousands of turtles will converge simultaneously on a beach.

Mexico’s environmental investigation authority said the captured eggs would be destroyed because they had been unearthed too long to be hatched artificially.

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