Smuggler Caught with More than 10% of an Entire Species

Written by Stephen Messenger

Ploughshare tortoises, native to Madagascar, are one of the most critically endangered species on the planet. And, while countless conservation groups are actively working to save them, the arrest of a wildlife smuggler in Thailand is proving just how easily a handful of criminals could bring about their demise.

Authorities say they recently arrested a 38-year-old Thai man at an airport in Bankok attempting to collect a bag containing 54 ploughshare tortoises smuggled in from Madagascar. Although that may seem less severe than some larger scale environmental crimes, this haul of tortoises actually accounts for nearly 13 percent of the estimated 400 or so individuals thought to still be in existence in the wild.

According to the watchdog organization TRAFFIC, the luggage was registered to a woman arriving from Madagascar who was also arrested. It is believed that the tortoises were bound for sale as exotic pets.

“TRAFFIC congratulates the Thai authorities for these very significant seizures,” says the group’s Deputy Director, Chris R. Shepherd.

“The criminals behind this shipment of Ploughshare Tortoises have effectively stolen over 10% of the estimated population in the wild. They should not be allowed to get away with it. They should face the full force of the law.”

Thailand has become a major hub for illegal wildlife traders, though stepped-up enforcement has led to the seizure of more than 4300 tortoises and freshwater turtles in the last three years. Convicted smugglers in Thailand face four year prison sentences and fines of around $1,300.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Photo: Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons


Dan H.
Dan H3 years ago

And why wasn't the smuggler picked up at the point of embarkation? I thought that all baggage was screened before being loaded onto an aircraft. Well so much for counter terrorism measures, what if there had been a bomb rather than tortoises.
I remember a case in the Netherlands where a woman tried to smuggled two tortoise in her bra, I guess their movement gave her away.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago


Dan H.
Dan H3 years ago

I would have at least thought that the would have a microchip or something on them.

Angela P.
Angie P3 years ago

The punishment does not fit the crime and should be more severe. How does one round up so many of these turtle if they are considered critically endangered. Is no one watching? Sad if this is the case since it will happen again.

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Don't forget the wildlife are not human property to exploit

Dan H.
Dan H3 years ago


Please look at this video clip on YouTube titled, Animals Can Be Jerks - Supercut Compilation 2013!

At minute 4:57, it seems to show one of these endangered tortoises with a cat riding on it! If you agree that this is a Ploughshare tortoise I think we need to take some action. if it's not an endangered species I guess that there is nothing we can do but to my way of thinking this still seems wrong.


Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Joan E.
Joan E3 years ago

What a gorgeous shell. Shame on the smugglers.

Lorraine Andersen

Raise the penalties. Toss them in and throw away the key. Might make the rest think twice if the penalties were severe enough

Betty Kelly
Betty Kelly3 years ago

Raise the penalties for smuggling and apply penalties to all involved in this crime.