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109 live animals found in women’s luggage in massive airport wildlife trafficking bust

(LONDON) — Two women have been arrested in Thailand for allegedly attempting to smuggle at least 109 live animals in their luggage — including porcupines, armadillos, turtles, chameleons and snakes — as they tried to board a flight to India.

The incident occurred on Monday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport as two Indian women tried to make their way through airport security when officials spotted a couple of suspicious items in their suitcases following a routine x-ray inspection, according to a statement released by Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Upon further investigation, authorities discovered a total of at least 109 animals including “two white porcupines, two armadillos, 35 turtles, 50 chameleons and 20 snakes,” read the statement.

The two women were arrested, taken into custody and charged under Thailand’s Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, The Animal Epidemic Act of 2015, and the Customs Act.

In March 2022, TRAFFIC — a wildlife and plant trafficking watchdog group — released a report on wildlife trafficking through India’s airports and said the issue is the “fourth largest illegal trade worldwide after arms, drugs and human trafficking, and frequently links with other forms of serious crime such as fraud, money laundering, and corruption.”

In fact, from 2011 to 2020, the report says that there were 141 wildlife seizure incidents involving 146 different wildlife species at 18 of India’s major airports.

“Over 70,000 wild animals including their body parts or derivatives, were found during the study period,” the report says. “Wildlife derivatives weighing over 4000 kg (approximately four-and-a-half tons) were also seized at airports in India.”

India passed the Wildlife (Protection) Act 50 years ago in 1972 but, according to TRAFFIC, wildlife trafficking is still a big issue in India.

“Despite the restrictions, wildlife trafficking continues. TRAFFIC’s study highlights the increasing misuse of airports for smuggling wildlife and its contrabands within India and across the regions,” the report continued. “The study’s findings reflect the ongoing trafficking and not an actual representation as most of the illegal wildlife trade goes unchecked and unreported.”

An earlier statement from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said that the surviving animals would be sent to wildlife rescue centers or breeding stations around the country.

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