A Malaysian man was arrested by Thai wildlife officers on Thursday as he was trying to smuggle two baby orangutans, 51 tortoises and six racoons into the kingdom across its southern border.
Ismail Bin Ahmad had packed the animals into plastic boxes and suitcases and loaded them in his car, officials said.
On Wednesday, the 63-year-old was stopped as he was trying to drive through a border checkpoint in Thailand’s Songkhla province, which is 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,” said Prach Kongthong, a wildlife officer manning the checkpoint.
The officer added that the orangutans were less than six months old and will be now transferred to a local shelter. They are often illegally smuggled throughout mainland Southeast Asia, either in private zoos or as pets, he said.
Almost all the rescued 51 reptiles were Indian star tortoises, which are endangered in nature.
Thai police often seize trafficked animals and wildlife products but they usually only catch low-level couriers.