Malaysia customs have intercepted and seized 330 exotic tortoises worth an estimated US$277,000 after smugglers attempted to bring the creatures through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

According to Today Online, the seized 330 tortoises which include five rare Ploughshare tortoises and 325 Indian Star tortoises were packed in several boxes labeled ‘stones.’

“This is our first case involving the Indian Star and Ploughshare species. The tortoises that are usually smuggled into the country are the smaller Black Pond type,” said Customs official Abdull Wahid Sulong.

Malaysian authorities raided boxes in KLIA’s cargo section after a tip off.

“We had one case in 2015 and four cases in 2016. They were hand-carried and flown in from Dhaka,” added Abdull.

Rare tortoises are usually kept as pets. On May 7, a Malaysian national was arrested attempting to bring three angonoka tortoises from Madagascar – the most expensive tortoises on the planet at US$33,150 each – into Taiwan.

Two Indian poachers were arrested in Thailand and Malaysia last week.

Conservationists have identified Malaysia as a key transit point in Asia for the illegal trafficking of endangered species.