Endangered red panda, 86 other animals found inside luggage at airport

On Wednesday, Thai customs officials were inspecting luggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country’s main international airport in Bangkok.

They made a shocking discovery: 87 animals — some of whom are endangered — were hidden inside checked luggage, in an attempt to smuggle the animals to India.

According to a Facebook release, the animals included an endangered red panda, a Sulawesi bear cuscus, cotton-headed monkeys, red-eyed squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs and a rat.

Photos show the poor scared creatures hidden in taped-up baskets and plastic containers:

Some of the animals are listed by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as threatened by international trade.

According to the release, six Indian nationals — five men and one woman — were arrested in connection to the case. According to ABC News, the suspects may face 10 years in jail or a heavy fine if found guilty.

The story is shocking, but it’s just part of a larger crisis as people try to illegally export animals out of the country for the exotic pet trade.

“Over a decade of INTERPOL engagement, wildlife crime has become one of the world’s largest criminal activities,” says Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services. “We have seen that wildlife crime relies on armed violence, corruption and is intertwined with financial crimes, ranging from money laundering to the financing of other forms of transnational organized crime.”

May be an image of 2 people, red panda, slow loris and panda
Facebook/กรมศุลกากร : The Customs Department

Thailand is known for their biodiversity and rare wildlife, which makes them an increased target for wildlife traffickers — especially from India, where there is reportedly a “growing fad” of exotic pets.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, director of TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia office, told CNN that there was a “very active and persistent level of trafficking of live animals between Southeast Asia and South Asia” and there has been a “string of cases of live wild animal smuggling via air,” and several busts since early 2022.

It’s heartbreaking to see these poor animals stuffed in luggage like this, all part of an illegal scheme to make them someone’s “exotic pets.”

We hope these countries are able to crack down on this illegal animal trafficking and keep these creatures where they belong. Please share this story!