Customs officers in Thailand find tiger cub hidden in bag of cuddly toys
Discovery made after X-ray reveals animal’s beating heart and other organs inside woman’s luggage at Bangkok airport
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 August 2010 23.31 BST
Customs officers at Bangkok airport in Thailand have discovered a drugged tiger cub in a check-in bag filled with stuffed animal toys.
An X-ray revealed the animal’s beating heart and other functioning organs inside the oversized luggage of a 31-year-old Thai woman who was due to board a plane to Iran.
Experts were called to inspect what was at first believed to be a sedated cat, but was later identified as an endangered tiger cub. In a botched attempt to conceal the animal, all the other cuddly toys in the bag were artificial stuffed tigers.
DNA checks are under way to determine if the cub was caught in the wild or captive-bred, and its origin. Traffic, the anti-smuggling organisation that has been working with the Thai authorities to stop the wildlife trade, applauded the work of the customs officials, but warned that the case showed the need for constant monitoring and tougher sentencing.
“If people are trying to smuggle live tigers in their check-in luggage, they obviously think wildlife smuggling is something easy to get away with and do not fear reprimand,” said Chris R Shepherd, Traffic south-east Asia’s deputy regional director. “Only sustained pressure on wildlife traffickers and serious penalties can change that.”
The cub is being cared for at the rescue centre of the department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation.
The woman, whose name has not been released, is being interrogated by police about the cub’s final destination.