Two women were arrested at a Thai airport on Monday after authorities discovered at least 109 live animals packed in their luggage. The staggering list of wildlife included porcupines, armadillos, turtles, chameleons and snakes.
Security guards at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport discovered the real zoo after inspecting the bags of two women trying to board a flight to India. Routine X-ray analysis helped authorities identify a few suspicious items, prompting them to investigate further.
According to a statement from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Flora, “two white porcupines, two armadillos, 35 turtles, 50 chameleons and 20 snakes” were found in the women’s luggage.
The couple were arrested and charged under Thailand’s Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, Animal Epidemics Act 2015 and Customs Act.
The Bangkok Post identified the women as Nithya Raja, 38, and Zakia Sulthana Ebrahim, 24, who were trying to get to Chennai airport in India.
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According to TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization that investigates wildlife and plant trafficking, wildlife smuggling is the fourth largest illegal trade in the world, behind weapons, drugs and human trafficking.
In March 2022, TRAFFIC released a report which revealed that 141 wildlife seizures took place at 18 Indian airports between 2011 and 2020.
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“More than 70,000 wild animals, including their body parts or derivatives, were found during the study period,” the report said. “Wild animal derivatives weighing over 4,000 kg (about four and a half tons) have also been seized at airports in India.”
This represents only a fraction of the illegal wildlife trade, which according to TRAFFIC “often goes unchecked and unreported”.
Surviving animals recovered in the smuggling case will be sent to wildlife rescue centers and breeding stations across Thailand, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
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It is unclear whether the women will face jail time or have to pay fines.
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