More than 100 tortoises found in Ukrainian woman’s luggage at Thai airport

The shells of endangered tortoises sell for tens of thousands of pounds on the underground market (Picture: Getty Images)

A Ukrainian woman was arrested in Thailand this week after attempting to board a flight with 116 live tortoises in her luggage.

Airport security found 14 radiated tortoises, 98 African pancake tortoises, and four Aldabra giant tortoises stuffed into her suitcases.

According to local reports, the smuggler was due to get on a plane from Bangkok to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa capital yesterday afternoon.

She had been travelling on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from the city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the Thai capital.

Officials raised the alarm after X-raying the woman’ bags. Police arrested her for smuggling wildlife into the country, which could carry a sentence of 10 years in prison.

It is still unclear whether all the tortoises had survived the 20-hour journey from Tanzania.

Like gold or ivory, they sell for tens of thousands of pounds on the underground market because of their rarity.

Both radiated and African pancake tortoises are critically endangered, while the Aldabara giant specie is considered vulnerable due to years of human poaching.

The reptiles reportedly had a total estimated value of a little more than £20,000. They were confiscated by airport wildlife authorities.

This comes just days after two women were arrested in Bangkok for smuggling live, endangered creatures including two armadillos, two porcupines, 50 chameleons, 35 turtles and 20 snakes.

Sathon Konggoen, chief of the wildlife inspection office at the airport, said: ‘This kind of case has happened many times because the animals have expensive price tags in India.

‘Animal trafficking is usually detected at the Thai-Myanmar borders and domestic airports to a certain extent.’

The women were charged with violating the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 2019, the Animal Disease Act of 2015 and the Customs Act of 2017.

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