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Red panda found in luggage of smuggling suspects at Thailand airport | Animals

Written by World News

Thai customs officials have arrested six Indian nationals for attempting to smuggle dozens of wild animals, including a red panda and cotton-top tamarin monkey, out of the country.

Officers found 87 animals, including monitor lizards, birds and snakes, packaged inside the suspects’ checked luggage at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. They were trying to fly to Mumbai.

Thailand is one of the world’s major hubs for illegal wildlife smuggling, a multi-billion-dollar transnational trade, due to its rich biodiversity, location and infrastructure. Smugglers use Thailand to transit animals to be sold in China and Vietnam, although recent years have seen an increase in trafficking to India.

“We have found out that the animals include 29 black throat monitor lizards, 21 snakes, 15 birds, including parrots – a total of 87 animals. The animals were hidden inside the luggage,” the Customs Department said in a statement on Wednesday.

A cotton-top tamarin monkey that was rescued at a Bangkok airport after being found in the luggage of a group of Indian nationals attempting to travel to Mumbai. Photograph: Thailand’s Customs Department/AFP/Getty Images

Photos released by the department showed a red panda, an endangered animal that is about the size of a domestic cat with a bear-like body, peeking out of a wicker basket.

A cotton-top tamarin monkey, which is critically endangered according to the ICUN red list, had been placed in a plastic box. A Sulawesi bear cuscus, which is classified as vulnerable, was inside a basket that had been taped shut.

Snakes and lizards were packed away in cloth bags and plastic food tubs.

If found guilty, the suspects face a maximum of 10 years in jail or a fine of four times the amount of import duties.

In February, a Mongolian man was arrested at the same airport on suspicion of trying to smuggle Komodo dragons, pythons and two dozen live fish out of Thailand.

Traffic, a NGO focused on the illegal wildlife trade, warned late last year that there had been a series of incidents involving wild animals hidden in luggage and smuggled between key airports in Malaysia, Thailand and India. It has previously called for vigilance at airports, warning of a resurgence in wildlife smuggling by air following the removal of pandemic restrictions.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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