Customs Agents At This Airport Found 330 Threatened Animals In Confiscated Suitcases

On Sunday, May 14, customs workers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Malaysia, stopped traffickers from entering the country with 330 threatened tortoises.


Source: Elizabeth John / TRAFFIC

Trapped in suitcases

The reptiles, five Ploughshare tortoises and 325 Radiated tortoises, were stolen from their natural habitat in Madagascar before being put in suitcases without water or food.


Source: Elizabeth John / TRAFFIC

Customs authorities were alerted and proceeded with an inspection of the five suspect cases in the freight area of the airport. In each of the suitcases, declared as containing 'stones,' was filled with tortoises wrapped in fabric.Luckily, the animals survived, despite their difficult transport conditions.[embed][/embed]

A seizure estimated to be worth $276,721

The cargo was on a flight with the company Etihad Airways which took off from the Antananarivo airport in Madagascar and passed through Abu Dhabi. The total was worth $276,721.


Source: Elizabeth John / TRAFFIC

The address for the cases' destination was false and customs officials haven't found the traffickers yet. Officers aren't sure if the tortoises were going to be sold on a local market or if they would be re-exported. An investigation has been opened.In Malaysia, the importation of species threatened with extinction can result in up to three years of prison time.

Less than 600 left in the world

The Ploughshare tortoises and Radiated Tortoises are two species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Flora and Fauna (CITES).Despite the world wide ban, they remain popular as pets, especially in Southeast Asia.[caption id="attachment_35431" align="alignnone" width="654"]


One of the five confiscated Ploughshare turtles, May 14, 2017. Source: Kanitha Krishnasamy[/caption]Ploughshare turtles are one of the most threatened species in the world; there are only 500-600 left in the wild.DocteurChris Shepherd, head of the associationTRAFFICin Southeast Asia, an organization which fights against the illegal animal trade, continued:

It is vital that highly threatened seized tortoises, especially Ploughshare Tortoises, are repatriated to Madagascar and reintroduced following the appropriate protocols to augment the wild population there. [...] We encourage the authorities to go after not just the traffickers but also those buying them.  

There are many organizations fighting for the end of trafficking world wide. You can donate to TRAFFIC, here, or check out theWorld Wildlife Fund. The Jane Goodall Institute has also launched a petition to call for the end of wildlife tracking. You can sign it, here.

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