Two Indian women tried to fly with 100 live animals in their luggage

NEWS AND COMMENT-BANGKOK, THAILAND: Two Indian women have been arrested in Thailand after they tried to smuggle 109 live animals in their luggage. The animals included armadillos and lizards. Their names are: Nithya Raja, 38, and Zakia Sulthana Ebrahim, 24. They are being held at Bangkok airport. They were checking in for a flight to Chennai. The bags were x-rayed in the usual way and security discovered two armadillos, two porcupines, 20 snakes, 35 titles and 50 chameleons. They were all dehydrated. Two iguanas had died.

Two armadillos found in airport luggage
Two armadillos found in airport luggage. Photo: CNN Travel. Photographer unattributed. Probably Thailand airport authorities.

They face 10 years in prison if successfully convicted under Thailand’s wildlife preservation, public health and customs laws.

Thailand has become a centre of trade in restricted and endangered species which are in demand across Asia where exotic pet body parts are used as ingredients in traditional medicine.

This is not the first time that air travellers have tried to smuggle live animals in luggage. To outsiders, it seems completely unimaginable but it happens a lot. For example, three years ago, a passenger from Bangkok was arrested in Chennai. They had a leopard cub in their luggage.

Sathon Konggoen, the chief of the airport’s wildlife inspection office, said: “Animal trafficking is usually detected at the Thai-Myanmar borders and domestic airports to a certain extent.”

109 live animals smuggled in luggage by 2 Indian women
109 live animals smuggled in luggage by 2 Indian women. Photo: Thai airport authorities.

He estimated that the market value of the seized animals at 200,000 bhat (£4700) and he added that “the animals have expensive price tags in India”.

Over the past decade to 2020, more than 70,000 native and exotic wild animals and their body parts such as tiger skins have been recovered in 140 seizures at Indian airports according to Traffic, a wildlife campaign group.

Traditional Asian medicine which uses the body parts of wild species, is second only to habitat loss in its destruction of wild species. And nothing, nothing is being done about it in Asia. This has gone on for decades, indeed centuries. Some Asians believe that the ingredients from wild species body parts improve health. There is no scientific evidence to support this. The belief is based upon superstition and ancient ideas. It is time for Asians to upgrade their ideas and bring them into the modern age. It is time for Asians to do something about wildlife conservation and take on the broader picture.

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