BANGKOK: Thai wildlife officers have arrested a Malaysian man attempting to smuggle two baby orang utan, 51 tortoises and six raccoons into the kingdom across its southern border.
The animals were packed into plastic boxes and suitcases loaded into the man’s car, officials said on Thursday.
The 63-year-old was stopped Wednesday as he was attempting to drive through a border checkpoint in Thailand’s southern Songkhla province.
“The suspect said he was hired to transport the animals from (neighbouring) Perlis state in Malaysia to Hatyai (in Thailand) for 1,000 baht (RM127),” said Prach Kongthong, a wildlife officer manning the checkpoint.
The two tiny orang utan were less than six months old and will be transferred to a local shelter, he added.
Orang utan are native to Borneo and Sumatra but they are often illegally smuggled throughout mainland South-East Asia, either for private zoos or as pets.
Most of the 51 rescued reptiles were Indian star tortoises – an endangered species from South Asia coveted for its star-patterned shell.
Thailand has long served as a transit hub for wildlife products bound for major markets like Vietnam and China, where exotic animal parts are often used in folk medicine.
Thai police frequently seize trafficked animals and wildlife products but they usually only catch low-level couriers, leaving the kingpins behind the lucrative trade at large.
In December, Thai police rescued two baby orang utan in a sting operation that saw undercover officers pose as buyers over a smartphone messaging app. — AFP