Gendarmerie units in Adıyaman, an eastern province, detained two suspects who were smuggling insects and butterflies abroad.
Suspects were identified as Italian national G.S. and U.K. citizen P.J.M. and both were professors. They were caught in a rural area in Adıyaman's Kahta district upon a tipoff that the suspects were planning to smuggle insects and butterflies endemic to the region abroad. Searching the lodgings and vehicles of two suspects, troops discovered equipment such as traps used to catch the animals, along with 600 different species of insects and 25 butterflies kept in boxes.
They were released after each were handed fines of about TL 120,000.
Turkey's rich flora and fauna has often been the target of bio-smugglers in recent years. Smugglers, mostly from European countries, seek to profit from cultivating species endemic to Turkey in their home countries. Authorities have stepped up efforts to clamp down on smugglers but laws only allow fines and deportation for captured foreign suspects. Bio-smugglers use venom, enzymes or biochemical materials derived from smuggled plants and animals in sectors ranging from medicine, food, cosmetics and defense.
Turkey boasts a vast array of insects and plants, and is home to 12,000 different species of plants while Europe as a whole has only 13,000 different species in total.
The government launched a nationwide project against bio-smuggling that involves more inspections of remote areas against smugglers and an awareness campaign that calls on locals to notify law enforcement if they encounter foreigners collecting plants and animals.