141 baskets of monitor lizards and tortoises found

The Star
Thursday May 4, 2006

IN SAFE HANDS: Mazlan (right) holding a tortoise while ranger Rasyid Mamat carries a monitor lizard which were rescued in Kota Baru yesterday. STARpic by SAZUKI EMBONG

KOTA BARU: State anti-smuggling unit personnel checking on a tip-off were taken aback when they found monitor lizards and tortoises trying to crawl out of plastic baskets left in Kampung Che Latif here. 
Around 12.30am yesterday, the unit was informed that suspicious-looking buckets had been left at Jalan Kuala Besar and a team was sent to investigate. 
The personnel found 141 baskets containing a total of 2,172 monitor lizards and 436 tortoises, some of which were trying to escape by pushing against the lids of the buckets. 
Believing it was a smuggling attempt, the team left the baskets untouched, laid an ambush and waited patiently. 
However, when nobody turned up to collect the shipment after some five hours, the team seized the animals and turned them over to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department here for safekeeping. 

?We believe the smugglers may have had a quarrel and decided to ditch the shipment here before reaching the border,? said the unit's commander Mazlan Che Hamid. 

Initial investigations indicated that the animals had been brought in from Perak, Kedah and Perlis with the intention of smuggling them into southern Thailand. 
The animals are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and it is an offence to smuggle them out of the country. 
State deputy wildlife director Wan Azali Wan Alwi said the monitor lizards and tortoises would be released in the national park here soon.



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