Thai police raid warehouse full of reptiles

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2010 9:37 AM
Thai police raid warehouse full of reptiles

Thai police on Friday raided a warehouse where wildlife smugglers were storing thousands of illegally collected reptiles for shipment overseas, a conservation group said.

Police seized various snakes, turtles, tortoises and pangolins from the warehouse in the central province of Ayutthaya and arrested its owner, the Thailand-based FREELAND Foundation said.

They included species protected under international agreements and Thai law.

The warehouse was run by a criminal syndicate that was shipping at least 1.2 tons of wildlife out of Thailand every week to consumer countries, it said. Several secret holding facilities are believed to exist, it said.

Southeast Asia supplies illegally traded wildlife to a global market estimated to be worth $10 billion-$30 billion annually, FREELAND said in a statement.

It said the illegal trade to supply demand in China and Vietnam for freshwater turtles, tortoises, snakes and pangolins threatens their survival in the wild.

The raid was notable because it uncovered a major holding facility and involved the arrest of an alleged major trafficker, FREELAND director Steven Galster said in the statement.

"In the past, portions of these shipments were seized along highways and border checkpoints, resulting sometimes in the arrest of truck drivers," he said.