SEPANG: The Customs Department intercepted a smuggling attempt involving more than 330 tortoises valued at RM1.2mil at the KL International Airport on Sunday.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of officers searched the air cargo warehouse at the Free Commercial Zone and found five boxes containing suitcases.
They found 325 Indian Star tortoises and five Ploughshare tortoises wrapped in moist pouches in the suitcases.
The tortoises were found alive and are believed to have been sedated.
The cargo arrived from Antananarivo Airport in Madagascar declared as "stones".
The fake address on the airway bill was a shop supposedly located in Salak Tinggi here.
Customs Enforcement Division deputy director Abdull Wahid Sulong said it was the first time that they found tortoises smuggled via air cargo.
"We've had five similar cases since 2015 and smugglers usually either hand carry or smuggle them through the post," he said.
Abdull Wahid said the Ploughshare tortoises could fetch US$4,000 (about RM17,339) each while the Indian Star species could sell for US$1,000 (about RM 4,334) each on the black market.
"These tortoises would normally be kept as exotic pets but we aren't able to determine whether they are destined for that or for traditional medicine," he said.