More than 5,000 turtles seized in luggage at Malaysia airport

Four men arrested after baby red-ear slider turtles kept in small baskets were found

 A Malaysian customs officer displays seized turtles during a press conference at  near KLIA airport in Sepang, Malaysia. Photograph: Ismail Fazry/EPA

A Malaysian customs officer displays seized turtles during a press conference at near KLIA airport in Sepang, Malaysia. Photograph: Ismail Fazry/EPA

 

Malaysian authorities have arrested four men and seized more than 5,000 turtles from their luggage at Kuala Lumpur Airport.

Senior customs official Zulkurnain Mohamed Yusof said agents found 5,255 baby red-ear slider turtles kept in small baskets in the luggage of two Indian nationals who flew in from Guangzhou, China, on June 20th.

He said the men had no permits for the turtles, estimated to be worth about £10,000 (€11,158) and told investigators that the terrapins were meant to be sold as pets in India.

The men are expected to be charged and could face up to five years in jail and a fine, he said.

Customs officials display seized turtles at the customs office on Wednesday in Sepang, Malaysia. Photograph: Vincent Thian/AP Photo
Customs officials display seized turtles at the customs office on Wednesday in Sepang, Malaysia. Photograph: Vincent Thian/AP Photo

The red-ear slider is one of the world’s most commonly traded turtles meant for the pet and meat markets. Permits are required as young turtles are susceptible to carrying salmonella and pose health concerns.

Mr Zulkarnain said officials also found 14.34kg of methamphetamine worth 717,000 ringgit (€152,176), hidden in special compartments in boxes that were hand-carried by two men.

One of them flew in from Hyderabad, India, on June 19th and another on June 20th from Bengaluru, he said.

The two men, believed to be drug mules, are expected to be charged and face the death penalty if convicted.–PA