In a bid to protect its local fauna, Turkey slapped fines worth TL 3,700,000 ($1,057,143) on 129 bio-smugglers in 68 different cases across its 21 provinces over the last decade, the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The ministry claimed that cases of bio-smuggling were mostly recorded in Turkey's Black sea, Southeastern Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia and Mediterranean regions and involved European citizens.
It also revealed that smugglers, over the last five years, have mainly targeted different species of orchids, tubers, bulbous plants and wild wheat, as well as various insects, vipers, butterflies and salamanders.
In anti-trafficking drives this year, two British citizens were captured with six green and rooted plants on Feb. 21.
Later on May 23, a Romanian citizen was arrested while trying to carry 36 butterflies across the border.
Another case was recorded in the Black Sea province of Gümüşhane on July 13. A Swedish citizen was detained with plant samples and dead insects collected from Van, Aşkale, Kars and Tuz Gölü (Lake Tuz).
All four smugglers violated the ninth article of the Turkish Environmental Law and were fined TL 42,479 each.
Speaking to AA, Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs Veysel Eroğlu said: "It should be mentioned that these bio-smugglers are generally academics studying biotechnology. They are involved in smuggling in order to capture genetic sources. Most of the bio-smuggling cases have been recorded in Artvin, Antalya, Adana and Hatay. We have also come across Syrians who wanted to smuggle birds of prey, like hawks."
Stressing that bio-smuggling was an issue that called for social awareness, Eroğlu said, "Protecting this common wealth and preventing their unauthorized uses are everyone's duty."
"Our citizens should immediately call 156 to inform the authorities if they come across anyone, especially foreigners, collecting live samples in an area."