470 Turtles Seized at Thai Airport, Smuggler Arrested [Photos]

470 black pond turtles were seized at the Suvarnabhumi Airport and a smuggler was arrested. Photo courtesy & &copy: TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
470 black pond turtles were seized at the Suvarnabhumi Airport and a smuggler was arrested. Photo courtesy & © TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

A Pakistani national identified as Mustafa Ali has been arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok following the discovery of 470 black pond turtles in his four suitcases.

This incident occurred on November 8, the day after 423 Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) and 52 black pond turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) were found in two unclaimed suitcases at the same airport. The Indian star tortoise is listed under CITES Appendix II, which allows for controlled trade only with appropriate permits and the black pond turtle is listed under CITES Appendix I, which means international trade in these species for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The black pond turtle is native to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Ali arrived in Bangkok from Lahore, Pakistan, on Thai Airways International flight TG346.

Black pond turtles are listed under CITES Appendix I. Photo courtesy & © TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
Black pond turtles are listed under CITES Appendix I. Photo courtesy & © TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

Dr. Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, notes that “the number of turtles and tortoises coming out of South Asia is skyrocketing, especially with regard to the black pond turtle” and that Thailand is a “globally significant trade hub” for turtles and tortoises. He explained that traffickers are operating without fear of prosecution.

“Few, if any, significant traders or kingpins in the tortoise and turtle racket have been penalized.”

Authorities at Suvarnabhumi Airport are said to have tightened security following the latest smuggling incidents.


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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.