Airport Officials Find Huge Cache of Animals in Luggage

Seizure is just one example of a widespread problem
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2022 3:25 PM CDT
Airport X-Ray Revealed Cache of Turtles. That Wasn't All
A Thai official displays a bucket of turtles seized at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport, where two women attempted were caught trying to smuggle more than 100 animals.   (Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation)

(Newser) – Officials in Thailand say they arrested two women who were attempting to smuggle more than 100 live animals in their luggage. Per the Washington Post, the animals were detected during an X-ray scan at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, where the women were attempting to board a flight to India. The cache included 50 lizards, 35 turtles, 20 snakes, two armadillos, and a pair of porcupines, all carefully packed in various containers. Two animals were dead, and a number of them were suffering from dehydration.

CBS News reports that the women were identified as Nithya Raja, 38, and Zakia Sulthana Ebrahim, 24. They were charged under Thailand's Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 2019 and hit with customs and health violations. One charge carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years. Thailand is a major hub of a global illicit wildlife trade worth some $150 billion annually, according to the Post. In recent years, the government has worked to tamp down on the problem, passing strict laws with hefty fines and lengthy prison terms.

Traffickers appear somewhat undeterred, as the latest bust comes after 636 animals were seized last month at the Suvarnabhumi airport alone. India is also a hotspot for the wildlife trade, particularly the Chennai airport, where the women were headed. Officials there have seized tens of thousands of animals in the past decade. The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance says the highly organized, illicit wildlife trade is "decimating many endangered species around the globe." (Read more smuggling stories.)

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