IMAGE: CROCODILES IN TRUCK
Sakchai Lalit  /  AP
A Thai Custom Department officer in Bangkok holds a net to show reporters some of 200 crocodiles foud inside this truck.
updated 10/12/2006 12:39:10 PM ET 2006-10-12T16:39:10

Thai authorities on Wednesday seized a truckload of about 200 live Siamese crocodiles, which are nearly extinct in Thailand and were smuggled into the country from Cambodia, officials said.

Acting on a tip-off, customs officials spotted the truck in Thailand's eastern Sa Kaew province on the border with Cambodian and followed it some 125 miles to Chonburi province.

They stopped the truck Wednesday morning in Chonburi and arrested the driver, discovering in the truck a box full of crocodile skins along with a three-tiered shelving system filled with live crocodiles, some more than a yard long, their jaws bound with rope, a statement from the Customs Department said.

The truck of crocodiles, estimated to be worth $16,000, was brought to the Customs Department in Bangkok, pending further investigation.

Siamese crocodiles are a protected species in Thailand and are nearly extinct in the wild, according to Thai law. Trade in Siamese crocodiles is forbidden, and government permits are needed for research and export of the species, said Tassanee Vejpongsa of conservation organization WildAid.

Video: Crocs recovered The World Conservation Union, or IUCN, classifies the Siamese crocodiles as critically endangered.

The driver allegedly told investigators that the Siamese crocodiles, which are still found in the wild in Cambodia, were bound for a breeding facility in Thailand, Tassanee said. Investigators could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sathit Limphongphan, director of the Customs Department, said that the crocodiles would be handed over to the Fisheries Department and blamed "black market demand" for the wildlife trafficking.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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