Wildlife officials and police have arrested a man and seized 30 live monitor lizards (Varanus salvator), 59 lizard carcasses and several live turtles in a raid on an illegal slaughterhouse in Suphan Buri province.
Padet Laithong, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office, said that the meat was being sent to wildlife restaurants in Trat province, falsely identified as tree monitor (Varanus bengalensis) meat.
He also said that officials are investigating a report in social media that the monitor lizard meat might have been sent to customers to turn into meatballs.
The owner of the abattoir claimed that he used to be a hunter, who captured monitor lizards and sent 2-5 lizards to his customers at a time. Eventually, he turned to slaughtering the lizards and sending the meat to eateries in Trat province, where it fetches higher prices.
Padet said that monitor lizards are a protected species in Thailand, but can be found almost everywhere, especially near natural waterways. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has strongly opposed the idea of lifting the protection so they can be farmed for commercial purposes.
The slaughterhouse owner was charged with possessing a protected species, which carries a penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of not exceeding 50,000 baht on conviction. Trading protected species carries higher penalties, with 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to a million baht on conviction.
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