The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) on Monday impounded 152 tortoises from the Eastern Uganda district of Mbale.

The tortoises were displayed to the media on Tuesday at a media conference, with URA officials revealing that they had been concealed in sacks.

“We got intelligence information that there were some suspicious goods loaded on a car. On the car, we found tortoises concealed in sacks. If the people had proper documentation, why did they have to conceal them in sacks?” Ms Agnes Nabwire, the assistant commissioner enforcement at URA told reporters on Tuesday as she handed over the tortoises to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Ms Nabwire added that there are laws that protect the movement of wildlife and that the smugglers did not have any documentation authorizing them to transport the reptiles.

The suspects are reported to have claimed that the tortoises were being transported to a local sanctuary in Mbale for breeding.

Mr Josey Muhangi, the Public Relations Manager, UWA noted that each tortoise was valued at $5000 (Shs16.7m) on the black market in Asia.

However, according to Havocscope an online directory of black market information, a tortoise in Malaysia alone can be valued upwards of $10,000 (Shs33.2m).

“We suspect that they were being transported to the black market either in Kampala or be exported. They are highly valuable in Asian and Chinese communities for food and the shells can be crushed into powder for medicinal purposes,” he said. He added that there are currently no permits for to export tortoises but revealed there were permits for people to rear them in their homes.

Source; All Africa