Last updated at 8:00 PM on 13th May 2011
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1386721/Bangkok-airport-authorities-bust-class-passenger-virtual-zoo-packed-luggage.html#ixzz1MHiWozFN
A first-class passenger waiting to fly out of Bangkok was caught with suitcases crammed with rare baby animals.
The man, a 36-year-old United Arab Emirates citizen, was waiting to check-in for his flight at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport when authorities swooped.
The animals – including baby leopards, panthers, a bear and monkeys – had been drugged and were headed for Dubai.
Undercover anti-trafficking officers had been monitoring the suspect since he allegedly bought the rare and endangered baby animals on the black market, according to the FREELAND Foundation, an anti-trafficking group based in Thailand.
When authorities opened the suitcases they found two leopards, two panthers, and Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys – all about the size of puppies.
Steven Galster, director of FREELAND, who was present when the man was intercepted said that the animals yawned when the bags were opened.
It looked like they had sedated the animals and had them in flat cages so they couldn’t move around much,’ Mr Galster said. Some of the animals had been packed inside canisters punched with air holes.
Authorities believe the man was part of a trafficking network and were searching for suspected accomplices.
Mr Galster said: ‘It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We’ve never seen one like this before.
‘The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcases.’
Thailand is a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking, but authorities typically find rare turtles, tortoises, snakes and lizards that feed demand in China and Vietnam. Finding such an array of live mammals is unusual.
In Thailand, leopards and panthers fetch roughly $5,000 a piece on the black market, but their value in Dubai was presumably higher, Mr Galster said.
It was not known if the animals were destined to be resold or kept as exotic pets, a practice popular in the Middle East.