Thai Authorities Confiscate 225 Rare Turtles at Airport

225 rare black pond turtles -- including babies -- were seized at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Photo from a November 2013 seizure of the same species, at the same airport. PHOTO: TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
225 rare black pond turtles — including babies — were seized at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. (TRAFFIC Southeast Asia photo from a November 2013 seizure of the same species.)

An attempt to smuggle 225 protected black pond turtles into Thailand was intercepted by customs officials who investigated four unclaimed suitcases at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The turtles, including babies, were found stuffed inside the bags and wrapped in plastic. Although shocking, this is not an isolated occurrence. Since the beginning of 2014, more than 1,000 rare tortoises and freshwater turtles have been seized as a result of smuggling attempts in Thailand. This latest turtle smuggling incident occurred on May 4, according to the Bangkok Post.

Dr. Chris Shepherd of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia says Thailand is a hub for trafficking in tortoises and freshwater turtles, noting that the “massive scale of tortoise and freshwater turtle smuggling has dire conservation implications”.

The black pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) is found only in Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. This species is listed under CITES Appendix I.

Just ten days after the Thailand incident, 158 black pond turtles were rescued in Uttar Pradesh when the smugglers were apparently involved in a highway accident. A forest official told the Times of India that it is the first large scale turtle trafficking case in the region.


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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.