British Columbia

Vancouver man fined $18K for attempting to smuggle turtles into Canada in duffle bag

Li Wan had 19 undeclared live turtles — some of which were endangered species — in a duffle bag when he was caught trying to cross into Canada.

Li Wan had 19 live turtles, some considered endangered species, when he was caught trying to cross border

Baby diamondback terrapins are shown in this file photo. Vancouver man Li Wan was caught with two of these endangered species while trying to smuggle 19 turtles into Canada. (Wayne Parry/The Associated Press)

A Vancouver man has been ordered to pay $18,000 after pleading guilty last month to attempting to smuggle 19 live turtles into Canada from the United States in a duffel bag.

Li Wan was caught with the undeclared turtles — some of which are considered endangered species — in his vehicle at the Point Roberts border crossing near Vancouver on January 27, 2018.

Officials say the animals were ordered online from different locations and picked up by Wan at a U.S. postal outlet. 

"These turtles were tiny when we intercepted them," said Ross Dolan, acting regional director for wildlife enforcement, Pacific and Yukon region. "All of them would have fit in a shoe box."

Wan has also been banned from owning protected species of any kind of animal for five years.

Of the 19 turtles, six were species that are considered endangered according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), including:

  • Spotted pond turtle, native to South Asia.
  • Pearl River map turtle, native to the southern United States.
  • Black-knobbed map turtle, native to Alabama and Mississippi.
  • Diamondback terrapin, native to the eastern and southern U.S. and Bermuda. 
  • Fly River turtle, native to Australia and New Guinea. 

CITES-listed turtles require a permit before being imported into Canada.

Dolan said Wan is private collector and not a dealer. He says the $18,000 fine sends a strong message to others like him who may try to skirt the law.

"In my opinion it's a fairly stiff penalty," said Dolan. "If he had been commoditizing them and looking to bring [the turtles] to his pet store and sell for a profit, we would expect a higher fine." 

Wan was originally charged with four counts of unlawfully importing animals under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, but three of the charges were stayed in a plea deal. 

The money from the fine will go into the federal government's environmental damages fund.