200+ endangered tortoises seized

2010-10-11 12:30

Bangkok - Thai customs authorities said on Monday they had seized more than 200 live endangered tortoises being smuggled into the country from Madagascar.

A 39-year-old Malagasy man was arrested on Sunday and charged after officials at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport found 217 radiated tortoises and a ploughshare tortoise in his luggage, officials said.

The man, named as Basoiry Damaladine, confessed that he was paid about $1 200 to bring the animals into Thailand.

The ploughshare and radiated tortoises are classified as critically endangered under the UN's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The ploughshare, or angonoka, is one of the rarest tortoises in the world, with only about 200 adults left in the wild, according to conservationists.

"Ploughshare tortoises in particular are extremely vulnerable as illegal trade has reduced their numbers to just a few hundred," said Chris Shepherd of wildlife trade watchdog Traffic, which assisted authorities in the seizure.

Last month Thai customs authorities seized 1 140 endangered star tortoises being smuggled from Bangladesh.