Custom officials at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport have seized 5,255 baby turtles from baskets inside the suitcases of two Indian nationals, the Associated Press reports. The red-eared slider turtles were worth about $12,700 total, and were en route to be sold as pets in India. This particular turtle species is one of the most commonly traded turtles for the pet and meat markets.
The two smugglers, aged 30 and 42, were traveling through Malaysia from the Chinese city of Guangzhou. They did not have permits for the turtles, have been arrested, and could face up to five years in prison and a fine.
Zulkurnain Mohamed Yusof, a senior Malaysian customs official, said at a press conference, “This is the first such case of the year, and we are unable to state whether it involves a similar quantity or more [if compared with previous cases]. But it appears to be quite a large quantity in two suitcases found at the same time.”
The turtles will be cared for by wildlife officials until a permanent home can be found for them.