As I write, hundreds of young pig-nosed turtles are swimming in a West Papua river, following the footsteps – or rather the flipper-waves – of countless generations of their ancestors. The flippers, unique among freshwater reptiles, and the snorkelling porcine snout signal their extreme adaptation to aquatic life.

We might suppose them to be particularly relishing this life. For, unlike that of their ancestors, it has been interrupted by a traumatic, crate-bound round trip across South East Asia. Confiscated back in January by customs officers, who spied them hidden in a seafood shipment entering ...


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