Red panda discovered in luggage in Bankok airport bust

The panda was one of 87 animals found in checked luggage by Thai customs agents.

LONDON – A red panda was among 87 animals seized by Thai customs agents after they were discovered in checked luggage at Thailand’s main international airport.

The animals were discovered on Wednesday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport by Thai customs agents in checked luggage en route to Mumbai, India, Thai customs announced.

The red panda was discovered among dozens of animals, including chameleons, snakes, birds, lizards, red-eyed squirrels, cottonmouth monkeys, a frog, a Sulawesi bear cuscus, a frog and a rat.

Photos of the airport arrest published by Thai customs show the animals tied up in baskets, bags and plastic containers hidden in checked luggage bags.

Thai officials say the animals are on the CITES list, categorized as threatened by international trade by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We found a total of 87 animals, all of which were hidden in the luggage that passengers would check into the plane,” Thai customs said in a statement.

Six Indian nationals – five men and one woman – have been arrested on suspicion of wildlife smuggling and customs violations, officials say.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport – also known as Bangkok Airport – is Thailand’s largest and busiest airport, with a total of 51,699,104 passengers flying through the airport in 2023, according to statistics published by the airport.

Thailand is one of the most biodiverse countries in Southeast Asia and is home to several rare species of mammals, flora and fauna. But its rich biodiversity has also made it a major hub for illegal wildlife trade and trafficking.

Thai customs officials have carried out dozens of CITES-protected wildlife seizures over the years, with agents seizing an estimated 10,00 turtles, nearly 6 tons of pangolins and an estimated 7 tons of ivory between 2014 and 2017, the United Nations said. Bureau of Drugs and Crime.

INTERPOL says wildlife crime has become “one of the largest and most profitable crime sectors in the world”.

“In more than a decade of INTERPOL’s efforts, wildlife crime has become one of the largest criminal activities in the world,” said Steven Kavanagh, Executive Director of INTERPOL Police Services.

If the suspects are found guilty of wildlife smuggling, the six people could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a heavy fine.

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