Artur Shnip (40) and Elena Shnip (28), a married Russian couple, were caught with 624 endemic butterflies and three bugs in Yusufeli, Artvin province, on Wednesday.
The gendarmerie was informed by villagers in the village of Yaylalar in the highlands of the Kaçkar Mountains that two foreigners were hunting butterflies in the area. Gendarmes found a Russian couple hunting butterflies in the area.
The gendarmes searched the bags of the couple with the help of Yusufeli National Parks and Environmental Protection Directorship. Officials found a total of 624 butterflies and three dragonflies in moist cotton-filled envelops, 11 empty envelops, tweezers and two empty boxes. The Russian couple told officers they had collected these butterflies in the provinces of Antalya, Malatya, Isparta, Erzurum and Artvin for a personal collection.
Artur Shnip told officers that he works as a taxi driver in Russia and his wife as a salesperson in a store. Artur Shnip said their sole aim in the region was to collect butterflies for their personal collection.
The butterflies were taken to the Yusufeli National Parks and Environmental Protection Directorship. Artvin Çoruh University (AÇÜ) has requested the butterflies to use them in scientific studies and to protect them at the university. The Russian couple was deported after being questioned.
Dr. Temel Göktürk, a faculty member from the department of agriculture told the Anatolia news agency that Artvin sees butterfly smuggling all the time, the instances of which increase in the summer season.
Göktürk stated that collectors and scientists around Turkey and other countries hunt butterflies in Artvin. “Officials seized beautiful apollo butterflies, swallowtail butterflies and colias caucasica from the Russian couple. Students at our university will be examining these butterflies and we have already started to work on these butterflies to prevent them from decaying,” Dr. Göktürk said.