Hundreds of reptiles seized by customs

Customs officials intercepted more than 340 turtles and 65 snakes, geckos, and chameleons in two separate smuggling attempts at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday.

  • Published: 5/12/2012 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

The turtles were kept in 50 boxes transported from Chon Buri province to the airport early yesterday, said Yuthana Limkaroon, deputy chief of the Department of Customs.

The driver told the police that he was not aware the boxes contained protected wild animals, he said.

Mr Yutthana said PYS International Agency Limited, the export company, told customs the 50 boxes contained vegetables destined for Hong Kong.

It was the second-largest batch of smuggled turtles found by customs and wildlife authorities this year, Mr Yutthana said.

In April, authorities confiscated 500 turtles at the airport before they could be smuggled out of the country.

In another wildlife smuggling case, customs officials seized 65 geckos, chameleons and snakes which were hidden in the luggage of a 30-year-old Kuwaiti passenger.

The man was about to board a plane to Doha, Qatar. He was charged with attempting to smuggle wildlife out of the country without permission.

This rare turtle was among a large wildlife haul seized by customs authorities at Suvarnabhumi airport on Dec 4, 2012. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The interceptions were made on the same day as Suvarnabhumi airport and the Freeland Foundation launched the iTHINK campaign to raise public awareness about wildlife protection.

Suvarnabhumi's deputy general manager Ittipol Boonaree said the airport has offered full cooperation in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

He said an average of 50 wildlife trafficking cases were intercepted at the airport per year.

"In one case, a wildlife trafficker tranquilised tiger cubs and put them in a suitcase with tiger dolls, but the airport authorities were able to determine they were real tigers," Mr Ittipol said.

"This case made us realise the smugglers will try every means to get these animals in and out the country," he added.

Steven Galster, Freeland Foundation's executive director, said the iTHINK campaign is part of an activity to promote the 16th Conference of the Parties to the the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to be held in Bangkok in March.

The campaign will gather opinions from well-known people on why they think wildlife smuggling must be stopped.

"People know wildlife smuggling is not good, but there is no explanation why people should stop consuming wildlife products," he said.

"It is simply a case of getting across the message of why we need to change our behaviour."

Kristie Kenney, United States Ambassador to Thailand and a presenter of the iTHINK campaign, said wildlife trafficking is a global crime that all countries need to resolve together.

The US parliament has raised its concerns about wildlife conservation by raising awareness with the public, she said.

Damrong Pidech, former chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and also an iTHINK presenter, said the government had not done enough to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade and to ensure the protection of wild species.

He called on the government to provide more support to wildlife officials working in the field.

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Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
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