Thailand: 13% of endangered tortoise species discovered in smuggler's bag at airport

Indian Star Tortoises. Photo: P.Tansom/TRAFFIC

Authorities in Thailand made two big seizures of attempted tortoise smuggling at an airport this week. Hundreds of threatened tortoises were discovered, and they are among the rarest in the world. Two smugglers were apprehended.

From TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network:

On Friday, authorities arrested a 38-year-old Thai man as he was attempting to collect a bag containing tortoises from Madagascar, from a luggage carousel, at the airport. The bag was registered to a 25-year-old woman who had flown from Madagascar to Bangkok via Nairobi the same day.

Royal Thai Customs officers and their counterparts in the CITES management authority found 54 Ploughshare Tortoises Astrochelys yniphora and 21 Radiated Tortoises Astrochelys radiata, both of which are assessed as being Critically Endangered.

Ploughshare and Radiated Tortoises are endemic to Madagascar, totally protected in the country and are both listed in CITES Appendix I. The wild population of Ploughshare Tortoises, considered among the rarest species in the world, is estimated to be as few as 400 individuals, and is declining fast.

So, the smugglers were attempting to smuggle 13.5% of the entire world population of Ploughshare Tortoises.

Both the Thai man and the Malagasy woman were arrested, and the man had been arrested earlier in 2013 on another wildlife smuggling charge.

Photo: P.Tansom/TRAFFIC

The incident happened just after the conclusion of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in which delegates from Thailand and Madagascar "discussed plans to share intelligence and co-operate in other ways to curb the smuggling of wildlife from Madagascar to Thailand."

More at the TRAFFIC website.