Monday 14 June 2010

Malaysian airport staff rescue smuggled tortoises

Jun 14, 5:03 AM EDT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Tortoises may move slowly, but even a little movement can be a lifesaver.

Customs staff at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur International Airport noticed something stirring in two bags and discovered 300 tortoises hidden amid shredded paper.

Found taped up inside the sacks were 285 radiated tortoises, 15 spider tortoises, and one Madagascar tortoise - all endangered species indigenous to Madagascar, said Loo Kean Seong, a senior official of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Two slabs of cannabis weighing about 4 1/2 pounds (2 kilograms) were also discovered, said Nordin Kadir, narcotics chief of central Selangor state, where the airport is located.

The bags were abandoned by a passenger who arrived on a flight from Mauritius, he said. The passenger walked out and escaped after seeing customs officials screening luggage.

Misliah Mohamed Basir, another senior wildlife department official, said Monday the tortoises will be returned to Madagascar.

Radiated tortoises are coveted by collectors and sold internationally as pets or food.

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