The live tortoises, stuffed inside cloth sacks and packed in six boxes labelled as “dried seafood”, were being smuggled out to Kuala Lumpur.
NDTV (Colombo): Sri Lankan customs officers have seized 206 live star tortoises, which are listed as an endangered species, that were being smuggled to Malaysia in boxes labelled as “dried seafood”, the largest such capture since 2015.
The Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division of Sri Lanka customs seized the live tortoises at the Air Cargo Exports Terminal of Colombo international airport on Saturday, a customs release said.
The live tortoises, stuffed inside cloth sacks and packed in six boxes labelled as “dried seafood”, were being smuggled out to Kuala Lumpur, it said.
According to the officials, it was the largest seizure since mid-2015 when a bid to smuggle 124 tortoises was foiled.
Sri Lankan star tortoises are the same species as that found in India. (Representational)
Sri Lankan star tortoises are the same species (Geochelone elegans) as that found in India and Pakistan but have a specific geographic identity, the customs officials said.
“It is one of the most beautiful tortoise species found in the world and due to the same reason they have been highly sought after in the illegal pet trade, especially in the South East Asian countries,” they said.
“As a result, the species has become threatened with extinction and included in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of species and also in Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” the officials added.
They said that the according to Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (section 40), attempt to export any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, coral or invertebrate, eggs, among others without the permission of the Director General of the Wildlife Conservation Department is an offence and also simultaneously violates the Customs Ordinance.