Thai Customs officials discover yet more smuggled Malagasy tortoises
Media Release from TRAFFIC – The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network – www.traffic.org
Rare Madagascar tortoises turn up in lined-luggage seized in Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand, 10th December 2013 - Royal Thai Customs has seized a bag containing 62 highly threatened Radiated Tortoises Astrochelys radiata and arrested a Malagasy national at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport this morning.
The bag was not picked up from the luggage carousel raising the suspicion of Customs officials who then scanned the bag to check its contents. The tortoises were discovered hidden in the foam-lined suitcase.
Officials managed to locate the suspect, a Malagasy national, who had flown from Antananarivo to Bangkok on an Air Madagascar flight. He is under arrest and is being investigated under several sections of Thailand’s Wild Animals Preservation and Protection Act 1992, Customs Act and the Animal Epidemics Act.
All four of Madagascar’s tortoise species are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). No international commercial trade in these species is permitted. All four are also completely protected under national laws in Madagascar.
The seized tortoises are now in the care of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
The seizure was based on the ongoing cooperation between TRAFFIC and the Royal Thai Customs, to identify and watch known smuggling routes.
Thailand has been a significant trade hub for smuggling highly threatened and illegal wildlife, including Critically Endangered Madagascar tortoises. They are prized as pets; resulting in these animals being pushed closer to the brink of extinction. In March this year, Thai authorities seized what was the single largest shipment of Radiated and Ploughshare Tortoises Astrochelys yniphora to have occurred globally.
“TRAFFIC congratulates the Royal Thai Customs on this success and urges the authorities to prosecute the offender. We look forward to a full investigation into this suspect, the shipment and the intended recipient of these tortoises” says Dr. Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
“Tortoises are frequently smuggled into Thailand for sale in the notorious Chatuchak market, yet the major players orchestrating the smuggling and sale of these animals have not been arrested. Too often, it is only the mules that are caught. Getting the kingpins must be the end goal of enforcement agencies,” he said.
Since 2008, Thai authorities have thwarted attempts to smuggle more than 400 Radiated and Ploughshare Tortoises, and arrested at least six Thai and Malagasy smugglers in connection with these cases
TRAFFIC also urges the Thai authorities to repatriate all Madagascar tortoises seized to prevent unnecessary losses and to formalise a government-to-government agreement to tackle the problem.
On 16th of December, TRAFFIC, along with the Singapore Zoo, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Turtle Conservancy are coming together in an effort to save one of Madagascar’s tortoises from poachers. The Tattoo the Tortoise: Keeping Ploughshare Tortoises out of the illegal trade event at the Singapore Zoo will see the engraving of identification numbers onto Ploughshare Tortoise shells to reduce its black market value.
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TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of IUCN and WWF.
Posted 11 December 2013