Record Seizures Mark Sri Lanka’s Rise as a Smuggling Hub for Star Tortoises

Inside an opulent shopping mall in the Thai capital Bangkok, a casually clad man meets a potential customer. They discuss how to bring live tortoises into the country to sell as pets.

“I have 560 pieces of live tortoises of size 5-12 centimeters [2-5 inches] and the tortoises can be sent through India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia as I know helpful people at these airports,” the supplier says confidently in a secretly recorded video. “I also have a small [tortoise] farm in Colombo,” he adds.

The supplier is Wasim Sheriff, alias Mona or Machli, a notorious wildlife trafficker based in India who had somehow managed to evade the authorities for years. But his luck ran out on this occasion as the buyer recording the encounter turned out to be an informant trying to track the illegal tortoise smuggling route. Based on the information, Machli was arrested in October 2017 in India with 1,012 tortoises.

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