Customs officials seize armadillos
BANGKOK (AFP): Thai customs officials seized a truck carrying nearly 500 legally protected armadillos destined for the stewpots of Chinese restaurants across Asia, an official said this afternoon. Manit Wityatem, customs chief in Thailand’s southern Chumphon province, said his officers had intercepted 483 armadillos believed to have been smuggled in from Malaysia. They were worth about a million baht (22,800 dollars), he said. “We learned that the armadillos are from Malaysia. Maybe they are still abundant there, but in Thailand they are almost extinct. Their meat is very popular, especially for those who seek wildlife meat in Taiwan, China and South Korea. Some of them look for something strange to eat. Thai people also eat them; that’s why they’re almost extinct,” he noted. He said yesterday’s seizure of the rare animals was the second of its kind in the past month as officials had stopped another truckload of some 280 armadillos in November. The armadillos, which were young and crammed into plastic containers, would be sent by Thailand’s Forestry Department to a wildlife breeding farm, Manit said, adding that the truck driver was arrested and later released on bail. Smuggling the animals, which are protected by Thai wildlife conservation law, carries a penalty of 10 years imprisonment. The customs chief noted that it was unusual for officials to seize armadillos, which were less common cargo for smugglers than turtles and snakes, also popular among diners in Chinese restaurants throughout Asia. Trafficking in protected species in Thailand can draw a 40,000-baht (905-dollar) fine and up to four years in jail, or both.
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