Officials seize 4,000 live baby tortoises at Chennai airport

Officials seize 4,000 live baby tortoises at Chennai airport

CHENNAI: As many as 4,000 tiny red-eared tortoises were caught by the customs officials at the city airport for the second time this month, when a passenger was trying to  smuggle them from Malaysia to Chennai on Saturday night.

Customs officials said that on Saturday night during a routine passengers profiling, one Mohamed Habib, a native of Ramanathapuram, tried to smuggle in the tortoises in his suitcase.

“Around 4,000 tortoises, all sized about one inch each, were dumped in a suitcase two feet in length and one and half feet in breadth. The passenger tried to smuggle the  tortoises from Malaysia,” said an official.

The officer also said that the man tried to smuggle the same species of tortoises 26  days ago, but his attempt had failed. Recalling the previous incident, the official said the man was detained and released earlier this month.

“Previously, he was found carrying 5,000 live tortoises. However, he paid the fine of `5,000 and was released,” said the officer.

According to airport officials, the man reached the Chennai airport on Saturday night. He had travelled from China via Kuala Lumpur in a transit flight through Malaysian Airlines and was caught when he reached Chennai.

Investigations are on to check where he brought the tortoises from and how long they were kept locked in the suitcase.

Saying that smuggling such tortoises is banned, the immigration officials sent back the live tortoises in a flight on Sunday morning.

During interrogations, the man confessed that he had bought the tortoises from a person in Malaysia for `20,000. He also told the officials that he had brought the  tortoises to India to sell them in different parts of the country as they were considered to be auspicious.