Red panda found alongside 86 other animals in luggage at Thai airport

Thai Customs Department via Reuters

On Monday, March 4, 2024, an endangered red panda was found in luggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok, Thailand

An endangered red panda was found along with 86 other animals in luggage at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thai customs said in a statement on Wednesday.

The red panda was one of 87 animals found in the luggage of six Indian nationals arrested for “attempting to smuggle live animals out of the country”, Thai customs said. The suspected smugglers – and the animals – were headed to Mumbai, India, the department added.

In addition to the discovery of the red panda on Monday, Thai customs said they had also found a cotton tamarin monkey, a fishing cat and a Sulawesi possum in the suitcases of the suspected smugglers.

Lizards, snakes, birds, squirrels and bats were also among the animals discovered, customs said.

Thai Customs/AFP via Getty Images

A monkey wearing a cotton top was also found in the luggage of a group of Indian nationals attempting to travel to Mumbai, India.

Images released with the Thai customs statement show animals stored in wicker baskets, plastic bins and cloth bags inside large wheeled suitcases. The suitcases were intended to be loaded onto a plane, the affidavit alleged.

According to Thai customs, those suspected of smuggling the animals have violated several laws, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates international trade in wild plant and animal species.

The suspects are also accused of attempting to export live animals without declaring them and violating animal disease control laws, customs officials said.

Thai Customs/AFP via Getty Images

A parrot that was rescued along with 86 other animals found in wicker baskets, plastic bins and cloth bags in suitcases bound for Mumbai, India.

A 2018 report by TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization that campaigns against the ‘illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife species’, found that there were 1,346 seizures of wildlife and wildlife products in the air transport sector between 2009 and 2016 have occurred.

This form of wildlife trafficking took place at the airports of 136 countries between 2009 and 2017, the report said, with Thailand reporting the second highest number of these incidents in the world.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, director of TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia office, said in a statement to CNN on Thursday that the organization has observed a “very active and persistent level of live animal trade between Southeast Asia and South Asia.”

Krishnasamy said this includes a “series of cases of live wildlife smuggling by air” between Thailand and India in recent years, with “arrests having been made in both countries since early 2022.”

Krishnasamy suggested that the increase in attempted wildlife trade into India is due to a “growing craze” for exotic pets, including kangaroos, cuscus and red pandas.

“We need to reach the bottom of the market in India,” Krishnasamy said. “A robust understanding of today’s pet market is needed to guide future interventions, including in the areas of strengthened regulation and demand reduction.”

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