Smugglers already have to answer to the police if they are caught, but a 38-year-old Thai man may have to answer to a much higher authority for attempting to steal almost thirteen percent of an entire species. According to the watchdog group TRAFFIC, law enforcement arrested the man at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok and found that he was attempting to steal 54 ploughshare tortoises, a critically endangered species from Madagascar. Not only was he abducting a large number of rare animals, but his haul put a dent in the conservation efforts of organizations hoping to preserve the 400 individual animals thought to be left in the wild.
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It was uncovered that the Thai smuggler had been arrested earlier this year on another charge of wildlife trafficking. Authorities expressed concern that even though he was not a passenger on a flight that he was able to access the baggage carousel, and believe that he must have been aided by several other people. TRAFFIC reports that the luggage the man was carrying was registered to a woman from Madagascar who was also arrested. It was believed that the ploughshare tortoises were intended to be sold as exotic pets.
Thailand is a major hotspot for illegal wildlife traders, and the government has recently stepped up enforcement to crack down on the black market activity. In only three years, they have rescued 4,300 tortoises and freshwater turtles alone. If caught, smugglers face a four year prison sentence and a fine of up to $1,300. At the recent Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), delegates from Thailand and Madagascar pledged to share intelligence in order to curb the illegal flow of animals between the two countries.