Man Arrested For Smuggling 14 Percent Of Endangered Tortoise Population
March 31, 2013

Smuggled Endangered Tortoises Found In Thai Man’s Luggage

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A 38-year-old man from Thailand was arrested at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok for attempting to smuggle critically endangered tortoises out of the country.

Actually, that´s a bit of an understatement. According to Gizmodo´s Andrew Liszewski, the Bangkok authorities found the man — whom they believe to be part of a global smuggling ring — attempting to make off with 54 ploughshare tortoises in a suitcase.

The ploughshare tortoise, Liszewski points out, is “one of the rarest species on the planet” with roughly 400 of them remaining in the world. That means that the man was attempting to make off with nearly 14 percent of the entire species — not to mention that he was also found to have 21 also-critically-endangered radiated tortoises.

According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, the arrest came one day after the close of a wildlife trade conference in Bangkok. The tortoises, which are native to Madagascar, were found in a bag retrieved by the man at a luggage carousel but registered to a 25-year-old woman who had just flown in from the island nation.

The woman was also taken into custody, Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, the Deputy Director of Thailand´s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said Friday at a press conference. He added that the man had been arrested earlier this year on a similar charge of wildlife smuggling, and that there would be an investigation to find out how the accused gained access to the baggage collection area despite not being a passenger.

“TRAFFIC congratulates the Thai authorities for these very significant seizures” said Dr. Chris R. Shepherd, the Deputy Director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. “The criminals behind this shipment of Ploughshare Tortoises have effectively stolen over 10% of the estimated population in the wild.”

“They should not be allowed to get away with it. They should face the full force of the law,” he added. “We urge authorities to go after the criminal masterminds behind these shipments and break the trade chains that threaten these incredibly rare animals.”