Over 100 animals found in luggage after X-ray at Thai airport

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Two Indian women have been arrested at a Bangkok airport after more than 100 live animals were found in their luggage, Thai officials said, amid a spike in wildlife trafficking as pandemic travel restrictions are enforced. relaxed in the world.

Authorities detected suspicious items in the women’s luggage during an X-ray scan at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, according to Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Authorities conducted a search and found 50 lizards, 35 turtles and two porcupines, among other animals. At least two of the animals died and many were dehydrated.

Among the animals were the yellow-spotted river turtlewhich is native to the Amazon and on an international list of vulnerable species, and Peter’s striped skink, which is sold as a pet in the United States.

Thai officials have not identified the two women. They were charged with violating Thai customs and public health laws, as well as Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act. The latter charge can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years, a maximum fine of around $28,500, or both.

Thailand’s Parks Department and the Indian Embassy in Bangkok did not respond to requests for comment.

The women were trying to board a flight to the southern Indian city of Chennai, authorities said. More than 70,000 animals were seized at Indian airports between 2011 and 2020, according to Traffic, a non-governmental organization. Thirty-six percent of these seizures were recorded at Chennai airport.

Wildlife trafficking is an illegal trade worth up to $150 billion a year globally, according to UK conservation group United for Wildlife. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a sharp reduction in animal trafficking around the world, but activity is rebounding as restrictions are eased, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency.

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The Southeast Asian nation has made efforts to combat the trade, including increasing penalties for wildlife traffickers in 2019. The maximum fine for violating wildlife trafficking laws has been multiplied by 25, while the maximum prison sentence increased by 2½ times at 10 years.

Thai authorities have seized at least 636 animals last month at Suvarnabhumi airport. In April, 34 turtlesincluding the critically endangered Burmese star tortoise, have been found in postal parcels destined for the Philippines.

In May 2021, the Thai government launched a campaign against wildlife trafficking which it linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which may have roots in a pathogen originally carried by a wild animal, the Associated Press reported. The campaign motto: “Stop disease and extinction: never eat, buy, hunt or sell wild animals.”

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