Bangkok, January 20, 2016: Yesterday Thai officials arrested an Indian national with around 2,800 Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) turtles in his baggage at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok. This particular species of turtle is not listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and is therefore able to be traded without restriction. However, in a commendable and novel move, officials from the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division (NRECD) recognized that the transport of large quantities of live animals under such inhumane, unsanitary conditions is a disease risk, and seized the animals citing violation of Thailand’s National Health Act.
The 27-year-old man had taken a Thai Airways flight from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, in southern China, and was transferring in Bangkok before flying on to Chennai, India. Officials noted that he had entered and exited Thailand frequently, and that he had supplied a Bangkok address on his arrival card. The man claims that he intended to sell the turtles to Indians and Bangladeshis as exotic pets. Trade in freshwater turtles and tortoises between South Asia and Southeast Asia is a relatively underreported and growing issue. Freeland India is set to publish a report on this very topic in the coming months.
“In using their health law, Thai authorities are reminding us that the wildlife trade is not only a threat to wildlife, but also potentially to people, as disease can spread from animals to humans,” said Onkuri Majumdar, Director of Freeland in India.
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Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, strengthen networks and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people. Freeland is also the lead implementing partner of “ARREST” (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking), the U.S. Government’s largest counter-wildlife trafficking program, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).