Thailand: 116 turtles found in Bangkok woman’s luggage

A Russian tortoise walks through green grass

Endangered turtles’ shells are sold on the underground market for tens of thousands of pounds (Image: Getty Images)

A Ukrainian woman was arrested in Thailand this week after trying to board a plane with 116 live turtles in her luggage.

Airport security found 14 radiated tortoises, 98 African pancake turtles and four Aldabra giant tortoises in their suitcases.

According to local reports, the smuggler was scheduled to board a plane from Bangkok to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa yesterday afternoon.

She had traveled to the Thai capital on an Ethiopian Airlines plane from the city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Officials sounded the alarm after searching the woman’s pockets. Police arrested her for smuggling wildlife into the country, which could result in a 10-year prison sentence.

It is still unclear whether all the turtles survived the 20-hour journey from Tanzania.

Like gold or ivory, they sell for tens of thousands of pounds on the underground market because of their rarity.

Both radiated tortoises and African pancake turtles are critically endangered, while the Aldabara giant species is listed as endangered due to years of human poaching.

The reptiles were reportedly worth a little over £20,000 in total. They were confiscated by the airport wildlife authorities.

This comes just days after two women were arrested in Bangkok for smuggling live, endangered creatures, including two armadillos, two porcupines, 50 chameleons, 35 turtles and 20 snakes.

Sathon Konggoen, head of the wildlife inspection office at the airport, said: “This type of case has happened many times because animals in India have expensive price tags.

“Pet trafficking is usually spotted at the Thailand-Myanmar borders and at domestic airports to some extent.”

The women have been accused of violating the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act 2019, the Animal Disease Act 2015 and the Customs Act 2017.

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Justin Scacco

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