By Judith Akolo
Two Madagascar nationals are set to appear in court Monday after they were arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with two live tortoises.
Kenya Wildlife Service rangers arrested the two Madagascans with two live tortoises weighing 400g while on transit from Antananarivo in Madagascar to Hanoi, Vietman each at the JKIA
Ploughshare tortoises which are mainly found in Madagascar are endangered and nearing extinction.
Scientists are putting the total population of Ploughshare tortoises at less than 500 and therefore critically endangered.
Ploughshare tortoises are highly prized for their distinctive gold and black shells and fetch exceptionally high prices on the international black market.
Two years ago smugglers trying to carry hundreds of endangered tortoises through Suvarnabhumi International Airport among them 54 critically endangered ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) from Madagascar were arrested.
They are believed to have been destined for the illegal pet trade in Thailand and China before their rescue.
In ancient times, Tortoiseshell was widely used in the West and in Asia, until the trade was finally banned in the 1970s.
Tortoise shells are used in the manufacture of a wide variety of items such as combs, small boxes and frames and inlays in furniture, frames for spectacles, guitar picks and knitting needles.
Despite being expensive, tortoiseshell was attractive to manufacturers and consumers because of its beautiful mottled appearance, its durability, and its organic warmth against the skin.
In 1973, the trade in tortoise shell worldwide was banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species( CITES).