Two alleged smugglers were arrested in India after they were caught in possession of more than 1,800 marine animals belonging to protected species.

On December 19, marine police received a tip-off and searched vehicles near Manamelkudi in Pattukottai, Tamil Nadu, the Times of India reported.

During the operation, A. Natarajan, 40, and S. Sasikumar, 29 were searched and found to have 200 seahorses, 20 sea cucumbers and 1,600 sea lizards stored in a sack.

The value of the items seized was estimated to be worth over 45,000 Indian rupees (US$637).

The two men were detained at a police station while investigations discovered them to be working as couriers for a smuggling gang, with the confiscated items reportedly destined for Sri Lanka.

The seized animals have since been handed over to the authorities in order for them to be returned to the wild.

Under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, endangered marine species such as seahorses, sea cucumbers and sea lizards are all protected species.