Malaysia seizes 330 smuggled endangered tortoises

Malaysia seizes 330 smuggled endangered tortoises
WATCH: The estimated worth of these tortoises on the market is believed to be just under US $300,000.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 (Reuters) – Malaysia has seized 330 endangered plowshare and Indian Star tortoises that were smuggled into the country, customs officials at Kuala Lumpur airport said on Monday.

The tortoises had been flown into the country from Madagascar on May 14, and were documented in the flight’s manifest as stones, Abdul Wahid Sulong, deputy director of KLIA Customs, told reporters.

The tortoises are valued at 1.2 million Malaysian ringgit (C$378,260), and the local address to which they were shipped was found to be false, he added.

READ MORE: China seizes 620 turtles and tortoises, most endangered, in shipment from Vietnam

Plowshare tortoises are endemic to Madagascar, and are listed as critically endangered on International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species due to poaching.

Malaysia has been singled out by wildlife conservationists as a transit point for the illegal trafficking of endangered species to other Asian countries.

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Earlier this month, Malaysia seized more than $2 million worth of scales from pangolins, the world’s most poached animal, at Kuala Lumpur airport in the largest haul seen in the country.