By Rhishja Cota-Larson
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.
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.