By Neelam Rahim
Wildlife protection officers said Tuesday that two Indian women were arrested at a Thai airport attempting to smuggle over 100 live animals, including armadillos, porcupines and snakes.
Thailand may be a significant transit hub for wildlife smugglers, with the animals often bound for Vietnam or China, where they’re utilized in traditional medicines.
Officials detected suspicious objects within the women’s luggage during an X-ray scan at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in step with Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Authorities conducted a hunt and located 50 lizards, 35 turtles and two porcupines, among other animals. A minimum of two animals are dead, and plenty was dehydrated.
Among the animals were the yellow-spotted river turtle, native to the Amazon and on a globally vulnerable species list, and Peter’s banded skink, sold as a pet in the US.
The Indian-origin women are identified as 38-year-old Nithya Raja and 24-years-old Zakia Sulthana Ebrahim, who was visiting on board a flight to Chennai.
Thai authorities have arrested and charged both the individuals with the Customs Act of 2017, Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 2019 and disease Act of 2015.
Both the accused are handed over to the Suvarnabhumi airport station for further judicial action. However, the authorities haven’t revealed the suspects’ intentions after smuggling the wildlife to India.
The officers have also not given details regarding the rescued animals.
Thai authorities seized a minimum of 636 animals last month at Suvarnabhumi Airport. In April, 34 turtles, including the critically endangered Burmese star tortoise, were found in mail packages for the Philippines.
In May 2021, the Thai government launched a campaign against wildlife trafficking linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which can have roots in a very pathogen initially carried by a wild animal, the Associated Press reported. The campaign’s motto: “Stop disease and extinctions: Never eat, buy, hunt or sell wildlife.”
Wildlife trafficking is a bootleg trade worth up to $150 billion a year globally, in line with the UK conservation group United for Wildlife. The coronavirus pandemic led to a sharp reduction in animal trafficking worldwide, but activity is rebounding as restrictions are eased, in line with the Environmental Investigation Agency.