A THAI woman was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 2 a.m. yesterday (Nov. 2) while trying to smuggle 17 Indian star tortoises to Taiwan, Thai Rath newspaper and TV Channel 7 said.
Mr. Phakphong Phathong, a forestry expert and head of the wildlife checkpoint at this airport, became suspicious after an X-ray of a suitcase belonging to the 24-year-old Thai woman travelling to Taipei on EVA AIR flight BR206 indicated there could be wildlife within.
Upon opening and searching the suitcase, he found the 17 Indian star tortoises hidden inside worth approximately 170,000 baht.
This is a threatened tortoise species native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where it inhabits dry areas and scrub forest. It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2016, as the population is thought to comprise more than 10,000 individuals, but with a declining trend.
It is threatened by habitat loss and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. It was upgraded to CITES Appendix I in 2019 by full consensus among all member states, giving it the highest level of international protection from commercial trade. Conservation group TRAFFIC found 6,040 were seized globally that were intended to be sold in the pet trade, according to Wikipedia.
The 17 Indian star tortoises were seized and the suspect, later identified as Ms. Warinya (surname withheld), 24, was taken to the police station at this airport where she was charged with violating Section 23 of the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act 2019, Section 31 of the Animal Epidemics Act 2015 and Sections 242 and 244 of the Customs Act 2017.
The protected Indian star tortoises seized at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Photos: Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and published by Thai Rath