Article from The Bangkok Post
Turtle photo by Tim McCormack
Two wildlife smugglers were arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport Monday as police intercepted an illegal shipment of more than 1,000 snakes and turtles. Police said it was the biggest wildlife seizure this year. They received an anonymous tip-off yesterday morning that smugglers would be sending the shipment through the airport's cargo section. "We immediately contacted customs officers and asked them to carefully monitor shipments being sent to China, Taiwan and Vietnam," said Pol Col Subsak Chavalviwat, senior liaison officer with the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network [pdf] (Asean-Wen) Programme Coordination Unit.
Two men arrived at the airport in separate pick-up trucks, parked the vehicles in the cargo area and began unloading 180 foam boxes for shipment. Within minutes, police arrived and examined the cargo. "They told us that the boxes contained fish and mantis shrimps, but fish and shrimps were found in only 62 of them. The rest of the boxes were full of turtles and snakes," Pol Col Subsak said. "There were 379 turtles and 660 snakes, altogether weighing 555 kilogrammes."
The animals recovered were rat snakes, Malayan box turtles, yellow-headed temple turtles and snail-eating turtles. The three turtle species are protected. The suspects were charged with possessing wildlife without a permit and attempting to illegally export wildlife. Under the Wildlife Act, they could face up to four years imprisonment and/or a 40,000 baht fine.
A source at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said the shipment was due to be sent to China on Cathay Pacific Airlines. He rejected a claim by the two suspects the animals were raised in a breeding farm. "On the contrary, we are certain that they are from the wild," he said. The official said the shipment was the work of professionals, who had placed cold bottled water wrapped in newspapers in each box to keep it cool. "Turtles are resilient and they had a higher chance of survival, but snakes are highly vulnerable and too many had been crammed together with little oxygen. Many were found dead," said the source. The surviving animals will be cared for by wildlife breeding centres until the completion of legal proceedings.