On Sunday June 26th, two Indian women were arrested at Bangkok’s international airport as they were about to board a flight with more than 100 live animals in their luggage, Thai wildlife officials announced. Two dead iguanas were also found while all the hidden reptiles were suffering from dehydration, according to a Facebook post by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants.
The animals were discovered when Nithya Raja, 38, and Zakia Sulthana, 24, passed through X-ray machines at Suvarnabhumi Airport, authorities said. They were scheduled to board a flight to Chennai, India. According to CNN, the women have reportedly been charged with violating the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 2019, the Animal Disease Act of 2015 and the Customs Act of 2017.
Thailand is a well-known source for wildlife trafficking, usually to major markets such as Vietnam or China, where they are used in traditional medicine. Wildlife officers found two armadillos, two porcupines, 20 snakes, 35 turtles and 50 chameleons stuffed into the two pieces of luggage belonging to the two women.
CNN reports that in 2019, a man arriving in Chennai, India, from Bangkok was detained at the airport after customs officers found a month-old leopard cub in his luggage. A March 2022 report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring agency, pointed out that more than 70,000 native and exotic wild animals were discovered in 140 seizures at 18 Indian airports between 2011 and 2020.
“This kind of case has happened several times before because these animals sell at high prices in India,” Sathon Konggoen, head of the wildlife inspection office in Suvarnabhumi, told Agence France Press.
Konggoen mentioned that the market value of the animals, believed to have been bred in Thailand, is at around $5,600. The two women are currently being held at an airport police station, pending court action.