87 Animals Found Inside Passenger Luggage In Bangkok

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  • Six Indian nationals were caught at BKK airport with 87 endangered animals in luggage bound for BOM airport in Mumbai.
  • Violated Thai laws, including CITIES regulations. Smugglers face a possible 10 years in jail or a hefty fine if found guilty.
  • Thailand is a hotspot for animal smuggling. Traffic NGO report highlights high levels of trafficking in the region.

Six Indian Nationals attempting to fly out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) were caught with 87 animals in their baggage. The passengers were trying to board a flight to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM).

The cargo

Many of the 87 animals found in the luggage were endangered. Officials found an endangered red panda, a critically endangered cotton-top tamarin monkey, a fishing cat, and a Sulawesi bear among the animals. According to the Red Panda Network, less than 10,000 red pandas are left worldwide, and as few as 2,500 are in the wild. According to the Thailand Customs Department, other animals found in the luggage included various lizards, snakes, birds, squirrels, and bats.

Photo: Jay Limsirichai | Shutterstock

In a statement to the press, the Thailand Customs Department said:

“We have found out that the animals include 29 black throat monitor lizards, 21 snakes, 15 birds, including parrots – a total of 87 animals. The animals were hidden inside the luggage.”

The animals were smuggled in various containers, ranging from wicker baskets to fabric bags, all stuffed into large wheeled suitcases. In their poor attempt to smuggle these animals, the six Indian nationals have violated several laws.

The smugglers violated multiple Thai laws, including failing to declare live animals and violating animal disease control laws. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) has also been violated. CITIES regulates the trade of wild animals and plant species.

The persons were promptly arrested and are awaiting further action. If found guilty, the Indian nationals could face up to 10 years in jail or a fine four times the import duties.

A rise in animal smuggling

According to a 2018 report by the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Traffic, which campaigns against illegal wildlife trade, the smuggling occurs frequently. The report studied the period between 2009 and 2016 and found that 1,346 wildlife seizures occurred across the aviation sector. The data was collected across 136 countries.

Thai Airways planes lined up.

Photo: JetKat | Shutterstock

Traffic’s report pointed out that Thailand has the second-highest number of smuggling attempts. According to TRAFFIC, there is a high level of trafficking using the air traffic sector between Southeast and South Asia, especially between Thailand and India.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, Traffic’s director for Southeast Asia, spoke about the increased levels of wildlife trafficking in the region:

“The incredible number and diversity of species being smuggled between Southeast Asia and South Asia is mind-boggling. In the most recent case, you have wild species from South America all the way to the Himalayas and Indonesia. Airlines and the transport sector play a crucial role, as frontliners who come across these bags being loaded on to a plane or sent as cargo. They have the ability not only to detect but collaborate with enforcement agencies to identify the parties involved in the trafficking chain.”

The increase in smuggling to India is due to the country’s trend of owning exotic pets, which include red pandas, kangaroos, and other endangered species. Air travel is the preferred mode of transport for these smugglers, allowing them to get the animals to other destinations faster.

  • 777-300ER aircraft departing Zurich for

    Thai Airways

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Suvadhana Sibunruang


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