Malaysian authorities have arrested four men and seized more than 5,000 turtles from their luggage at Kuala Lumpur Airport.
Officers found 5,255 baby red-ear slider turtles kept in small baskets in the luggage of two Indian nationals who flew in from China.
Officials said the men had no permits for the turtles and told investigators that the terrapins, estimated to be worth about €10,000, were meant to be sold as pets in India.
The men are expected to be charged and could face up to five years in jail and a hefty fine.
The red-ear slider is one of the world’s most commonly traded turtles meant for the pet and meat markets.
Permits are required as young turtles are susceptible to carrying salmonella and pose health concerns.