Thailand seizes 451 turtles smuggled into plane luggage

June 2nd, 2011 - 8:58 pm ICT by BNO News  

BANGKOK, THAILAND (BNO NEWS) — Thai airport customs officials discovered and seized 451 turtles packed into several suitcases after arriving from Bangladesh, officials said Thursday.

Director-General Prasong Poontanet of the Thai Customs Department told Thai News Agency MCOT that a suspected international smuggling syndicate of endangered species was allegedly responsible for the incident.

The 451 rare and endangered species of turtles - which included 140 small aquatic turtles, 35 Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans), seven soft-shelled turtles, seven gharials, a type of fresh water crocodile, one Asian narrow-headed soft-shelled turtle, and some other species of tortoises - were hidden in baggage on a plane from Dhaka, Bangladesh and arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

According to officials, the smuggled turtles were worth Bt 1 million ($33,000).

The animals were being taken care of at the airport’s Wildlife Checkpoint. They will be further analyzed and also used as evidence, as Thai customs officials issued a complaint at a local police station to locate and charge the alleged smuggling syndicate.

Thailand has signed an international agreement between governments to fight illegal trade of animal and plant species called the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species.

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