In a hair-raising development reported from Bangkok, 2 Indian women were held by the Thai airport authorities for smuggling as many as 109 animals, including snakes and lizards. According to reports, the accused were planning to smuggling the live animals to Chennai Airport by traveling on a Thai Airways flight.
Along with the snakes and lizards, the two women were also carrying live white porcupines, turtles, and other animals, as per a Facebook post by Thailand Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
The accused in the matter were identified as 38-year-old Nithya Raja and 24-year-old Zakia Sulthana Ebrahim. According to reports, the authorities at the Suvarnabhumi airport suspected the accused after X-Ray examination showed that their bags had two suspicious objects. After further investigation of the luggage, the authorities were shocked to see that the women were carrying 2 white porcupines, 50 lizards, 20 snakes, 35 turtles, and 2 armadillos.
According to reports the two accused have been charged with violating the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 2019 along with violation of Animal Disease Act, 2015, and Customs Act, 2017.
According to a report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring agency, over 70,000 native and exotic animals were recovered across 140 seizures at 18 Indian airports between the period of 2011 and 2020.
The Facts of the Matter
The Thai authorities detained two women at an airport in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport for carrying over one hundred live animals in a bid to successfully smuggle them to India. The women were carrying animals such as snakes, armadillos, lizards and many others. The total animal count stood at a shocking 109.
How Accused Got Caught
The accused were identified as Nithya Raja (38) and Zakia Sulthana (24). The duo was at the airport and passed through an X-Ray machine before their flight to Chennai, India. The X-Ray machine showed that two suspicious objects were inside their luggage.
On further investigation, the authorities seized 2 armadillos, 2 white porcupines, 20 snakes, 35 turtles, and 50 lizards. A New Indian Express report airport wildlife inspection office chief Sathon Konggoen saying, “This kind of case has happened many times because the animals have expensive price tags in India.”
Animals Were Worth 2,00,000 Baht
Konggoen further estimated that the animals in captivity would be somewhere around 2,00,000 baht (almost Rs. 45,000). He added that the animals may have been bred in Thailand itself, and added that attempts at animal trafficking are detected at Thai-Myanmar borders and domestic airports.
2 Dead Iguanas Also Found
It should be noted that along with the live animals, the authorities also recovered 2 dead iguanas. Initial investigation in the matter indicated that the reptiles were suffering from dehydration. All the animals will be moved to an animal center, claimed e Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in its Facebook post.
Meanwhile, the accused women were charged with violations of multiple acts, including the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, Customs Act, and Animal Epidemics Act.
70,000 Animal Species Trafficked in India
Thanks to globalization, and increase in air travel accessibility, it is easier than ever for traffickers to smuggle exotic animals and wildlife goods across the globe. According to WWF report from 2020, 6,000 different species of fauna and flora were seized between 1999 and 2018 in transit of being smuggled. Moreover, according to TRAFFIC, over 70,000 native and exotive animal species were trafficked across India through 18 airports, between 2011 and 2020.
Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi Airport Report Most Seizures
Among the smuggled species, reptiles emerged as the most common, making over 46% of the overall seizures. Meanwhile, mammals attributed to about 18% of the seizures while timber amounted to 13%. The most reported airports emerged as Chennai International, followed by Mumbai and Delhi, a UNEP report read.