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Smuggler Caught With 10 Percent of an Entire Species

At the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand, authorities stopped a man with some turtles. Fifty-four ploughshare tortoises and twenty-one radiated tortoises, to be exact

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Ploughshare tortoise. Image: Hans Hillewaert

At the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand, authorities stopped a man with some turtles. Fifty-four ploughshare tortoises and twenty-one radiated tortoises, to be exact. That’s a lot of tortoises. But it’s a lot more if you consider that there are only about 400 ploughshare tortoises left in the world. In other words, this man was trying to smuggle 10 percent of the entire population of ploughshare tortoises.

The parties involved in the smuggling have all been arrested, but these sorts of arrests don’t seem to do much to stop people from trying again according to Mongbay.com:

The Thai man attempting to collect the bags, O. Visarnkol, was arrested on site. Prior to his arrest he was already on bail for smuggling protected species. The bag was registered to a Malagasy woman, Clara Rahantamalala, 25, who was traveling from Madagascar to Bangkok; she was also arrested.

“We encourage the authorities to throw the book at these two. Making an example of them will hopefully serve as a deterrent for other smugglers,” Shepherd told mongabay.com. “Releasing people on bail does not seem to be part of an effective strategy to reduce the smuggling and illegal trade.”

According to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust the ploughshare tortoise is being threatened on all sides:

The ploughshare tortoise or angonoka has been hit by a series of disasters – not only has it suffered from burning of its habitat and hunting for food, but more recently the illegal pet trade has further reduced its numbers to fewer than 500 animals in the wild, and it is now the rarest tortoise in the world.

That pet trade is booming still, according to TRAFFIC, a network that monitors wildlife trade. They say that that same day in the same airport, officers found 300 Indian Star Tortoises and 10 Black Pond Turtles. TRAFFIC hopes that these sorts of confiscations and arrests happen more often, in a region where most smugglers are never caught.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Bag Full of Otters Recovered at Thai Airport
Two Americans Charged in Narwhal-Tusk Smuggling Ring Bust

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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