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Reptiles and Amphibians in the News

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Georgia Turtle Mess

A Lawrenceville, GA, man claims he was working in cooperation with a USFWS officer when he purchased 12 baby map turtles from a Georgia DNR officer. Court documents showed that Steve Santhuff had worked in the past with USFWS as a confidential informant to the black market turtle trade. Santhuff reported this sale to federal officers and the state attorney general's office. The Georgia DNR officer then used this sale to seize Santhuff's large private collection of turtles, for which Santhuff has legal documentation. (USFWS apparently used this opportunity to award the DNR officer with a "conservation" award.) The turtles in Santhuff's collection were taken to a fish hatchery in July 2005. Since then, Santhuff claims that 200 have died from miscare. A GA wildlife biologists, Thomas Floyd, states that "only" 25% of the turtles have died. (So that's what, 125 rather than 200? Way to go...) Floyd also points out that with 350 turtles, "It's fairly obvious to connect the dots there that it's beyond a hobby." Right. Hobbyists should only be allowed to keep one or two reptiles. The take-home message? Stay out of Georgia. Santhuff has a few lawsuits in the works, to get back his turtles (that are still alive) and for compensation. (News source.)

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  • At June 28, 2007 9:37 PM , Blogger Santhuff said...

    This is Santhuff here. 27-3-132 is the statute in Georgia for the state "endangered wildlife act of 1973."

    The law or the act specifically limits the Georgia DNR in that they have no right to regulate possession of private property, even when the property is a species that becomes designated as protected from capturing or killing!

    Warning to all who do good in conservation! Never, I repeat never work as a "CPI" for the USFWS no matter how good you feel about doing it! Money was sent by a USFWS agent for the purchase! My view on this is that it was a "set-up" in the making but gone bad. It only got as far as the search warrant, there have been no charges for selling/buying. The law-enforcement testimony so far admits to the money being sent for this one and only authorized buy.

    The charges are state charges for various spins on possession so that the law suits can be stalled out. See Younger v. Harris case law. Stay tuned over the next 3 or 30 years for the out come.

    The take home message is that there are some good federal agents and then there are some other types of federal agents. When you want to work toward conservation, support the various non-profit groups and never ever aid the USFWS law enforcement division. Everyone thought I was crazy when I told them the money was sent to me and that I was asked to do this undercover work! Perhaps I'm not as crazy now that it's admitted in testimony!

    Another piece of advice, keep the origional copy of your documentation at a relatives house! Keep COPIES at your house. My licenses and permits were seized and never returned, I've got all the copies from the states so it's no problem now, just a matter of visiting various state offices.

    When you are illegally searched you can sue under federal law, section 1983. Officers must have probable cause that you are committing a crime. They must convince a judge to sign a search warrant......this can be done with a careful twist of the ink. So be prepared.

    I am fighting this for many reasons, but one is for all the free people in the United States. Don't think that this could not happen to you, it can. If you keep a reptile collection or stand out from the Joe public in any way then take precautions and understand your documentation is not safe in your home!

    Guess what else? My back yard had turtles missing in the months prior to the search warrant issued. Guess where those missing turtles showed up? In the possession of the Georgia DNR! Court records, witness testimony!

    I am finally happy to see this become public like this. Thank you for your support. Sincerely, Santhuff

  • At April 25, 2008 6:08 PM , Blogger Tom said...

    The state DNR is an over zealous agency with no checks and balances, virtually no oversight and very little intelligence.


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