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GEORGE TOWN: When papayas packed in 180 boxes for export to Hong Kong "made" strange sounds in a container lorry at the Second Air Cargo Complex in Batu Maung near here today, the Penang Wildlife Department swung into action.
Upon checking the container, a team of wildlife officials found the papayas alright -- but the sounds came from hundreds of cobras and turtles, as well.
The 555 banded cobras and 171 turtles were the 'main cargo' enroute to Hong Kong, while the papayas were the 'decoy'.
Together with the Malaysian Animal Quarantine Inspection Service personnel, the wildlife officials seized the snakes and the turtles in the incident about
A man, in his 40s, was detained to facilitate investigations into a syndicate specialising in smuggling exotic animals overseas for sale to restaurants
serving exotic food.
Department director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the snakes and turtles, worth about RM100,000, were meant for sale to restaurants which exclusively served
He said, according to current market value, the banded cobra was priced at between RM80 to RM200 each, depending on the size.
The seized turtles, of the rare Heosemysgrandis (Heosemysgrandis) species, were priced at RM200 each, he said.
"We believe the syndicate, which was based in Gurun, Kedah has been in operation for more than a year, and had used various tactics to escape detection
by the authorities.
Jamalun said investigations revealed the syndicate had used a legal fruit exporting business as a front to smuggle exotic animals overseas.
He said the snakes and turtles would soon be released into their original habitat in the north and Pahang, in batches.
The case is being investigated under Section 10 (a) of the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 which provides for a maximum fine of
RM100,000 for each animal or jail not more than seven years, or both. - Bernama