Significant Blow to the Illegal Pet Trade: Big Bust Rescues Dozens of Lemurs and Tortoises

Significant Blow to the Illegal Pet Trade: Big Bust Rescues Dozens of Lemurs and Tortoises

In a pair of busts that will end up costing criminals millions, Thai police raided a suspected wildlife smuggling site and saved hundreds of animals.

48 lemurs, 30 primates of various species, several crocodiles, and over 1,000 rare tortoises were seized when a convoy of four smuggling trucks was raided in Chumphon, Thailand, as well as a farming front connected with the subjects.

Valued at over $2 million on the black market, this seizure spells good news for endangered species. Radiated tortoises and all the lemur species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I, meaning that trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

Both species are native to Madagascar and are highly sought-after commodities in the global illegal pet trade market.

Coordinated by a suite of Thai law enforcement and wildlife organizations with aid from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the investigation is focused on dismantling a transnational organized wildlife trafficking network operating in Thailand, with linkages stretching across Africa, Asia, and South America.

Wildlife, including plants and seeds, make up the third largest illegal market in the world behind drugs and weaponry. But whereas the other two can always be easily replaced through manufacturing, endangered lemur species are finite and known to be in great peril from habitat loss alone.

In other words, a police seizure of this magnitude will not only be significantly disruptive to the criminals’ operations but create an extremely positive impact as well.

“This operation represents the largest reported seizure of radiated tortoises in Thailand and the largest globally since 2018,” said Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Executive Director of the Wildlife Justice Commission, who helped share “critical intelligence” with Thai authorities that led to the seizure.

“This resounding success sends a clear message that wildlife trafficking will not be tolerated, and perpetrators will be brought to justice.”

Since 2016, the Wildlife Justice Commission has been at the forefront of the fight against this illegal trade. Working in cooperation with law enforcement authorities, the Wildlife Justice Commission has disrupted trafficking networks in Asia and the Middle East and now, with this latest case, has helped rescue over 10,000 live animals including turtles and tortoises, big cats, orangutans and chimps.

This article by Andy Corbley was first published by The Good News Network on 3 May 2024. Lead Image: Some of the lemurs after they were rescued – credit Wildlife Justice Commission Released.

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