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In 2009, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission banned large-scale, commercial hunting of freshwater turtles in Florida. Under the new rules, turtle farmers are still allowed to collect turtles from the wild, but only to establish a breeding population (the goal was to shift the commercial trade in turtles from the wild to the farm). Recently we learned that not everyone is following the rules.

On September 25, David Feltenberger was sentenced to 90 days in prison and fined $20,000 after he pleaded guilty to shipping wild-caught turtles to China. Feltenberger is the owner/manager of the Big Lake Fish Farm (4550 NW 240th St.) in Okeechobee. According to a criminal complaint, Feltenberger would buy turtles from individuals, throw them into a concrete pool and then when he was ready to ship, he’d “drain the concrete run and collect the turtles.” Boxes full of live turtles were shipped out of Orlando International Airport.

ARFF thanks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for investigating this crime and helping to protect turtles in Florida.

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