Two women were arrested in Bangkok this week after attempting to board a flight with 100 live animals in their luggage.
The smugglers had packed live, endangered creatures including two armadillos, two porcupines, 50 chameleons, 35 turtles and 20 snakes, said the chief of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport’s Wildlife Inspection Office.
He confirmed that the animal smugglers had been set to travel to Chennai, India.
“This kind of case has happened many times because the animals have expensive price tags in India,” he added.One of the ‘dehydrated’ armadillos after rescue
He said that the collection of rare animals had a black market value of around 200,000 Thai Baht ($5000).
Two iguanas had perished in the suitcase before the smugglers were found out, while the other creatures were found to be suffering from dehydration.
Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) said that the animals are receiving medical treatment before being moved to an animal centre or breeding facility.
The two women were detained at the airport’s police station and charged with violating Thailand’s Wildlife Preservation and Protection, Animal Epidemics and Customs Acts.
The DNP released photos of the women’s luggage X-ray and some of the rescued animals in an effort to raise awareness of wildlife trafficking.
Thailand is a hub of exotic-animal smuggling, with creatures such as armadillos often trafficked to China or Vietnam, where they are sought after as ingredients for traditional medicines.
In February the Wildlife Justice Commission reported that every five minutes a pangolin is poached in the wild, every 24 hours a rhino is hunted for its horn, and every week at least 200 freshwater turtles and tortoises are trafficked.