Lihua Lin was arrested by federal agents last week as he prepared to board a flight to Shanghai, China.
According to U.S. court documents, Lin was arrested after a search of his luggage turned up hundreds of turtles, some of the which are endangered.
Authorities say the incident is linked to an international smuggling ring led by Lin's co-accused, another Canadian man who was stopped by U.S. authorities in August after allegedly trying to re-enter Canada with 51 turtles in his pants.
The confiscated turtles are mostly hatchlings less than a month old and include more than 750 diamondback terrapins as well as several other types of turtles.
The zoo's chief life sciences officer says the reptiles are in various condition.
"It isn't surprising that some are not doing well given the way they were being smuggled," Scott Carter said in a statement.
"Most are not of conservation concern, but some are endangered species."
The turtles will stay at the zoo until the investigation is complete. They will then be transferred back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permanent placement.