Orang utans, tortoises and raccoons seized at Thai border

Two rescued baby orang utans on the Thai side of the Malaysia- Thailand border crossing at Padang Besar on Wednesday, after they were found inside a car driven by a Malaysian man attempting to smuggle the two animals, as well as 51 tortoises and six
Two rescued baby orang utans on the Thai side of the Malaysia- Thailand border crossing at Padang Besar on Wednesday, after they were found inside a car driven by a Malaysian man attempting to smuggle the two animals, as well as 51 tortoises and six raccoons, into the kingdom.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • Thai wildlife officers have arrested a Malaysian man attempting to smuggle two baby orang utans, 51 tortoises and six raccoons into the kingdom across its southern border, officials said yesterday.

The animals were packed into plastic boxes and suitcases loaded into Ismail Ahmad's car, officials said.

The 63-year-old was stopped on Wednesday as he was attempting to drive through a border checkpoint in Thailand's southern Songkhla province - part of an insurgency-torn region known as a funnel for drugs, weapons and other contraband.

"The suspect said he was hired to transport the animals from (neighbouring) Perlis state in Malaysia to Hat Yai (in Thailand) for 1,000 baht (S$41)," said Mr Prach Kongthong, a wildlife officer manning the checkpoint.

The tiny orang utans were less than six months old and will be transferred to a local shelter, he added.

Orang utans are native to the islands of 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 medicines.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'Orang utans, tortoises and raccoons seized at Thai border'. Print Edition | Subscribe