Thailand seizes hundreds of turtles in air luggage

The haul is worth an estimated $33,000
An Indian roofed turtle is displayed during a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok on June 2. Thai customs have discovered hundreds of live turtles and other rare animals in luggage at Bangkok's main airport, the latest in a series of wildlife seizures in the kingdom, an official said.

Thai customs have discovered hundreds of live turtles and other rare animals in luggage at Bangkok's main airport, the latest in a series of wildlife seizures in the kingdom, an official said on Thursday.

The haul, which included 35 star tortoises and is worth an estimated one million baht ($33,000), was discovered in suitcases from Bangladesh in transit at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the way to India.

The owner of the luggage, which also included gavials, a reptile related to , escaped before police could arrest him.

The star tortoise, which is popular in Asia as an exotic pet, is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and a permit is required to export them.

Last September Thailand -- home to some of the world's largest wildlife trafficking operations -- seized more than 1,000 star that were smuggled into the country on a flight from Bangladesh.

And last month a citizen of the was arrested as he attempted to smuggle live , including four leopard cubs, out of Thailand, although authorities said on Tuesday he had fled the country.

(c) 2011 AFP

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