By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
After the theft of highly prized endangered tortoises from the Bang Phra water-bird breeding centre in Chon Buri, the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) has launched an investigation and removed the head of the centre from hi
After the theft of highly prized endangered tortoises from the Bang Phra water-bird breeding centre in Chon Buri, the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) has launched an investigation and removed the head of the centre from his post.
The department also gave an assurance yesterday that security would be boosted at all wildlife-breeding centres to prevent similar incidents, while it also gave a guarantee that the valuable wildlife and animal products seized from the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi were being kept under strict guard.
DNP deputy director-general Adisorn Noochdumrong said more than Bt3 million worth of rare tortoises had been stolen from the breeding centre since April, comprising 72 radiated tortoises and six angonoka tortoises.
“The stolen tortoises are all rare species. The angonoka tortoises are among the rarest in the world, included in the CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] list with only 400 left in the wild. Because of their beautiful shell and high demand on the market, the price for an adult is as high as between Bt1 million and Bt2 million, while smaller ones fetch around Bt200,000,” he said.
Meanwhile, radiated tortoises are also an endangered species and very popular in the pet market, fetching prices of Bt3,000 to Bt10,000.”
Because of the theft of the rare animals, the department has launched an investigation into Bang Phra water-bird breeding centre’s officers and removed its chief from his post, Adisorn said. A committee is now investigating whether some of the personnel working at the establishment may have been negligent in their duties or involved in the crime.
“We informed Sri Racha police once we noticed the tortoises were missing, and now the police and the department are investigating the case,” he said.
Tortoises have been stolen from the breeding centre before, around six years ago, he said.
Kasemsun Chinnavaso, permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, said all of the stolen tortoises had in fact been originally been seized during an investigation into illegal wildlife trade at Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2013, which led him to believe that personnel at the Bang Phra breeding centre must be involved in the crime.
On the current investigation progress, Sri Racha Police superintendent Pol Colonel Popphol Jakapap claimed that the police already knew the suspects and were gathering evidence and tracking them down.
As the stolen tortoises were first seized three years ago during an illegal-trade raid, there is speculation over the DNP’s ability to provide security for seized animals.
Adisorn stressed that the department had stepped up surveillance on such valuable property, especially the seized tigers and products that the agency had removed from the Tiger Temple last week.
“We have informed all wildlife breeding centres to increase their security and guard these expensive properties, so everyone can be sure that these animals and products will not be stolen again,” he said.
Last Friday, the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that environmental crime, which included wildlife and timber trafficking and trading, was rising steeply, with an estimated global value of between US$91 billion and $258 billion (Bt3.2 trillion and Bt9 trillion), against $70 billion to $213 billion in 2014, according to the UN Environment Programme and Interpol.