100 star tortoises seized in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 14th September 2011—Authorities in Peninsular Malaysia yesterday discovered and seized 100 Indian Star Tortoises, packed in a plastic container at a business premises.
The Indian Star Tortoise Geochelone elegans is legally protected by Malaysia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. It is highly prized and remains a target for the international pet trade, despite being afforded legal protection in its range countries of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, all of whom have banned the species’s international commercial export.
Peninsular Malaysia Wildlife Department’s Crime Unit (WCU) seized the tortoises while inspecting a warehouse that deals with aquaculture products, in the state of Melaka.
Department officers detained a man after he failed to produce valid documentation for possession of the protected animals.
In addition, the owner of the premises does not hold a wildlife business licence from the Department.
“We congratulate the Wildlife Department and call on them to come down hard and make an example of this offender if he is found guilty,” said Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Deputy Regional Director.
“It’s traders like this who are giving Malaysia a reputation as an illegal wildlife trade hub: punishing them to the full extent of the law will demonstrate that Malaysia is serious about stamping out illegal wildlife trade.”
The Department has lodged a police report on the man who has been summoned to court where he is expected to be charged under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 on counts of possession of protected species.
He could also be charged under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008, which carries a maximum penalty of a MYR 1 million (USD 379,000) fine or imprisonment of up to seven years.
“TRAFFIC urges the Wildlife Department to arrange for the urgent repatriation of the animals seized yesterday,” said Shepherd.
“We also look forward to a publicly available list of licenced wildlife businesses so the public can make informed and responsible purchases, which will go a long way towards stemming the illegal wildlife trade.”
Just under a month ago, 589 Indian Star Tortoises were seized at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, although no arrest was made on that occasion.