A man has been caught at Bangkok airport with live baby animals in his luggage, including panthers, leopards, and a baby bear.
The man, a 36-year old citizen of the United Arab Emirates, was apprehended by an undercover anti-animal trafficking officer as he was checking in for a first-class flight to Dubai.
The Freeland Foundation anti-trafficking group said the animals that were discovered in the man’s suitcase had been drugged and were all under two months old.
When authorities opened the man’s suitcase the animals – two leopards, two panthers, as Asian black bear and two macaque monkeys – yawned.
Freeland Foundation director Steven Galster was present at the discovery and said “It looked like they had sedated the animals and had them in flat cages so they couldn’t move around much.”
It is believed that the man, Noor Mahmoodr, is part of a wider animal trafficking network, and authorities are now searching for any accomplices. “It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We’ve never seen one like this before… The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcases,” Galster said.
The Freeland Foundation said the man had been followed after he was seen buying the rare and endangered animals. Leopards and panthers fetch around US$5,000 on the black market in Thailand, and it is assumed that their value is much higher in Dubai.
Mahmoodr could face up to four years in jail along with a 40,000 baht (AUS$1,200) fine if convicted.