KUALA LUMPUR – More than 5,000 turtle hatchlings trafficked from China and worth thousands of dollars have been seized at a Kuala Lumpur airport, officials in Malaysia’s customs department announced Wednesday.
The discovery of 32 baskets of red-eared slider turtles was made at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on the evening of June 20, the customs authorities said in a statement.
Shown in a press conference on Wednesday, the 5,255 turtles are estimated to be worth 52,550 ringgit ($12,700).
The statement said one passenger, described as a 30-year-old Indian citizen, was found to have been attempting to smuggle 16 small baskets containing 2,620 turtles worth 26,200 ringgit inside his luggage.
The other, a 42-year-old Indian male, also had 16 small baskets of 2,635 turtles with an estimated value of 26,350 ringgit in his baggage.
The men had arrived in the Malaysian capital on an AirAsia flight from Guangzhou, southeastern China, and have been remanded in custody for 14 days pending investigation.
Importing turtles without a license is punishable by a fine of up to 600,000 ringgit or a jail term of five years, or both.
The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a common pet around the world and is listed by the Global Invasive Species Database as being number 93 in the top 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species. Their lifespan can exceed 20 years.