Live turtles and other rare reptiles were stuffed into four suitcases and smuggled into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. The Guardian reports
Thai Customs have found 451 turtles worth 1 million baht (£20,000) stashed in suitcases offloaded from a passenger flight from Bangladesh, in the latest seizure of live animals at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
Turtles of varying sizes worth around 2,000 baht apiece in Thai markets, and seven false gavials – a type of freshwater crocodile worth 10,000 baht each,were found on Thursday in small bags packed into cases after authorities received a tip-off that a known trafficker was travelling to Thailand.
The alleged trafficker, a Bangladeshi national, did not collect the luggage and fled on arrival in Bangkok, customs officials said.
The discovery was the biggest since September last year, when 1,140 turtles were found by Customs in a single day. A further 218 were seized a month later.
Customs officials at Suvarnabhumi often seize reptiles and small animals in luggage.
They found a two-month old tiger cub in a bag last August, which was concealed by stuffed tiger toys and bound for Iran.
Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of Thailand’s Customs department, said it was likely the turtles were destined for Bangkok’s Chatujak market, a sprawling mass of 11,000 stalls and shops that has a dedicated pet section where endangered species are sometimes sold.
Although Thailand has been at the forefront of a regional effort to combat wildlife trafficking, the country’s multiple airports, sea ports and road network make it a major transit point for other destinations.