Red panda, 86 other animals seized from Indians at Thailand airport

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Thai customs officials have arrested six Indians for attempting to smuggle a red panda and 86 other animals out of the kingdom, including snakes, parrots and monitor lizards, officials said Wednesday.

The illicit menagerie was discovered hidden in the suspects’ checked luggage at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport as they tried to fly to Mumbai.

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Thailand is a major transit hub for wildlife smugglers, who often sell the animals in China and Vietnam, although recent years have seen an uptick in trafficking to India.

“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 Customs Department said in a statement.

Photos released by the department showed the red panda -- an endangered species -- peeking out of a wicker basket, and a parrot shut in a plastic container with air holes crudely drilled in the lid.

More plastic tubs held lizards, while snakes were seen coiled together in cloth bags.

The suspects face a maximum of 10 years in jail or four times the amount of import duties.

Last month a Mongolian man was arrested at the same airport for trying to smuggle Komodo dragons, pythons and two dozen live fish out of the kingdom.

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