It's not just in Thailand that people get caught with endangered turtles, it happens right here in North America. In Toronto, A local restauranteur was caught with 31 spiny softshell turtles in the freezer and actually had the turtle soup printed on the menu. This is blatantly illegal to do so in Toronto, where it is considered a threatened species by both Provincial and Federal levels of government. There may be fewer than a thousand of them left.
But they are a hit with the local Chinese community; according to Peter Paul Van Dijk of Conservation International, quoted in the Star:
The taste for turtle has driven the populations of many freshwater turtles in Asia “close to zero,” he said. Only within the past decade have North American turtles like the spiny softshell been tapped to fill this demand, said Van Dijk. “It’s a delicacy that’s considered to have medicinal side benefits — kind of a part of healthy living,” he said. “It is a major factor in the decline of some species.”
The restaurant owner was convicted of unlawful possession of the spiny softshell turtles under the Endangered Species Act, and of listing a protected species for sale under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Each violation carried a $5,000 fine, according to the ministry.
He got off with a $10,000 fine. When Toronto tried to ban shark fin soup, many in the Chinese community accused City Council of cultural insensitivity. I wonder if they are saying the same thing about this.