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WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Turtle hatchlings that were illegally poached to be sold on the black market will be released back into the wild next year, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM).

The 16 baby musk turtles were removed from their habitat in Pennsylvania last year. The DEM said the hatchlings were confiscated from a West Warwick home back in September, where a man was caught selling them online for $20 each.

“The illegal collection and trade of turtles is a major conservation problem that has population-level impacts on our native species,” Rhode Island State Herpetologist Scott Buchanan said. “The enforcement of our wildlife laws that regulate wild collection is an absolute necessity of sound conservation and management.”

The Roger Williams Park Zoo’s veterinary team cared for the turtles up until last month, when the babies officially returned to Pennsylvania.

“We could not be more pleased that they all survived and have returned to the region they were born,” RI DEM Detective Harold Guise said.

The DEM said the turtles will be given additional time to grow before being released back into the wild.

The seller paid a $1,600 fine for possessing a reptile without a permit.

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