Saturday May 5, 2012
Enforcement officers foil bid to smuggle snakes and turtles to Hong Kong
A SHIPMENT declared as papayas was found to contain hundreds of cobras and freshwater turtles worth some RM110,000 meant for the “cooking pot” in Hong Kong.
The animals were rescued by the Wildlife and National Parks Department in a joint raid with the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services at the Kuala Lumpur Airport Services’ (KLAS) local cargo complex in Batu Maung, Penang.
Wildlife department’s Penang director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the 555 cobras and 171 turtles, worth some RM110,000, were found inside 80 polystyrene boxes which were mixed among 100 boxes of papayas in a container.
He said the shipment was declared as papayas and was destined for Hong Kong.
He said the driver of the lorry carrying the container was arrested during the raid at about 4.30am on Wednesday.
“We arrested the driver, in his 40s, to facilitate our investigation to track down the mastermind,” Jamalun told a press conference at the department’s office in Jalan Gurdwara yesterday.
He said he believed a syndicate was behind the smuggling of the animals — the giant Asian pond turtle (heosemys grandis) which is a type of freshwater turtle and the monocellate cobra (naja kaouthia).
“We believe the animals were to be smuggled out to meet the demand for exotic animal dishes,” he added.
Jamalun said the cobras could fetch a market price of more than RM200 for the bigger ones and about RM80 for smaller ones while the turtles cost about RM200 each.
He said both species were listed under Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade of Species which means that their trade are only permitted with an appropriate export permit and certificate of origin.
He said the papayas in the shipment were harvested from a farm in Kedah, according to the shipment’s document.
Jamalun said the case was being investigated under Section 10 of the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 that carries a fine of not more than RM100,000 for each animal but not more than RM1mil in aggregate, or a maximum seven-year jail term or both.