CHIANGRAI TIMES – A smuggler faces jail after he flew eight endangered tortoises into the country in a Tupperware box.
David Brett had the rare Indian star tortoises posted to him from Thailand in a container with no food or water.
A court heard the reptiles spent 72 hours in the box and were imported ‘purely for profit’.
The tortoises fit into the palm of the hand and can fetch up to £1,000 each.
Border officials acting on intelligence seized the parcel when it arrived in the country in February, magistrates in Trafford were told.
Stephanie Varle, prosecuting, said Brett had already sold four of them to a Manchester pet shop before they arrived.
She said: “This is a flagrant disregard for the law motivated by profit.
“There is a wanton lack of concern for the animals in question. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) takes these particular kind of offences very seriously.”
Ms Varle added Brett was aware of import laws, having previously been caught trying to enter the country with nearly 10,000 cigarettes, when the limit is just 200.
Brett, 37, was told he could be jailed for illegally importing and selling the tortoises. The court heard he had previously worked with animals and had long held an interest in them.
He had researched reptiles and pictures were found on his laptop of him holding Indian star tortoises.
An empty vivarium was also found in his house.
Brett, of Egerton Road South, Chorlton, does not face any cruelty charges but the UKBA says the way the creatures were transported was an ‘aggravating factor’.
David Campbell, defending, said his client had pleaded guilty to the offence at the earliest possible opportunity.
He added that Brett felt it was better not give them food or water after researching the best way to transport the tortoises.
But District Judge Wendy Lloyd said: “If he thinks in the hold in a Tupperware box is a suitable way to transport animals he needs to research a little more. A custodial sentence seems a very live possibility. There has to be a deterrent element in this sentence.”
Brett will be sentenced later this month.