Illegal animal smuggler busted in Thai airport

A man identified only as a citizen of the United Arab Emirates was arrested in the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday for the illegal smuggling of animals. At the time of his arrest, he had several suitcases which contained two baby leopards, two panthers, two macaque monkeys, and an Asiatic black bear.

According to this story from our friends at AOL Travel, the 36-year old was preparing to board a plane to Dubai (Where else?) when he was taken into custody by anti-trafficking agents. Those agents had been reportedly monitoring him since he had made the purchases on the black market a few days earlier, and were simply waiting for the best time to nab him, and safely recover the animals.

The man’s smuggling operation was described as quite sophisticated. Prior to leaving for the airport, he had drugged the small animals to put them to sleep for the flight back to the UAE. He then placed them into flat cages and slid those cages inside the suitcases, which he would have used to get the animals through the airport had he not been caught in the act.

The illegal trade of exotic animals is becoming a bigger problem throughout Asia and especially in Thailand. Wealthy collectors will visit the country to purchase rare, and sometimes endangered, animals, to add them to their own personal zoos, although it is unclear if this particular smuggler was picking up the animals for himself or to be sold after his return to Dubai. Officials say he seems to be quite well connected however, and he had already posted bail just hours after his arrest.

It is difficult to decide which is worse; the illegal animal smuggling in Asia or the terrible problems with poaching in Africa. Both are highly unsavory acts and I applaud all efforts to put a halt to activities.

[Photo Credit: Associated Press]

Man arrested in Mexico smuggling 18 monkeys in his pants

Are those monkeys in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

A Mexican man was arrested upon arrival in Mexico City after flying from Lima, Peru with 18 titi monkeys strapped around his waist. While the monkeys traveled in his luggage, Roberto Sol Cabrera placed the endangered monkeys into socks that fit into a waist girdle “to protect them from X-rays,” though two of the monkeys did not survive the journey, sadly.

Police said Mr. Sol Cabrera behaved “nervously” when questioned at customs, not surprising given the amount of squirming primates near his privates. He reportedly paid around $30 per monkey in Peru that could fetch up to $1,550 each as exotic pets on the Mexican market. He is being investigated on charges of trafficking an endangered species. After similar arrests of smuggling via hat and shirt, I look forward to a monkey-smuggling episode of Locked Up Abroad.

[Via BBC News.]

[Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke]

Airport survey reveals huge trade in bushmeat

Researchers studying customs seizures at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris have discovered that smuggling of illegal meat is a huge problem.

Up to 270 tons of illegal meat may be coming into Europe from Africa every year. The study made its estimate based on customs searches over a 17 day period involving 134 passengers from 14 African countries. Nine people were caught with bushmeat weighing a total of 188 kilos (414 lbs). The defendants had a variety of dead animals in their bags, including primates, crocodiles, and rodents. Some were protected species.

Bushmeat, the common term for animals hunted in the African countryside for food, makes up to 80% of protein and fat in the diet of rural Africans. Much of the hunting is for rodents and deer that aren’t endangered, but this practice has also led to some species being pushed onto the endangered species list or becoming locally extinct. Importing bushmeat is illegal in Europe, but the taste for exotic foods, or nostalgia for good home cooking, has led to a major trade in wild animals.

While it’s not a headline grabber like discovering a shipment of human heads, officials say bushmeat smuggling poses a health risk and contributes to wildlife extinction.

Photo courtesy Amcaja via Wikimedia Commons.

Fake pilots try to smuggle cocaine through airport

Spanish police have arrested two men who tried to smuggle cocaine through Madrid’s Barajas airport while dressed as pilots.

The two men boarded a flight from Bolivia and then changed into pilot uniforms. So far, so good, but once they landed in Madrid they joined the queue with the rest of the passengers. This struck the airport police as a wee bit suspicious. When asked for ID, they produced IDs from a different airline than the one they arrived on. Strike two. The cops then questioned the real crew of the plane and found out these folks were, in fact, passengers. Strike three. The daring duo then had their bags searched and were found to be in possession of 55 kilos (121 lbs) of Bolivian marching powder.

This video (in Spanish) shows just how good their disguises were. It is unclear at this point whether the uniforms are brilliant fakes or real ones they acquired somehow. Too bad for them they hadn’t thought out the rest of their plan as carefully. Perhaps they read how Gadling caught the cops at Barajas “allegedly” playing solitaire and figured it was an easy target.

Customs arrests man for flying with postage stamps

Customs officers are generally our friends. They keep people from boarding the plane with stolen antiquities or live reptiles, but occasionally innocent people get caught in their net.

Stamp collector Markand Dave of India seems to be one of those people.

Mr. Dave tried to board a flight from Sardar Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad, to Frankfurt, Germany, on his way to attend a stamp collecting exhibition in London. In his luggage he had a collection of rare, early Indian stamps. While Mr. Dave is a well-known philatelist and had an invitation to participate in the exhibition, he had forgotten to ask permission from the government to take the stamps out of India and ran afoul of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, which considers rare stamps to be antiquities. He’s due to appear in court on charges of antiquities smuggling.

Mr. Dave is probably not an antiquities smuggler, but as a leading philatelist he should have known better. Collectors should understand the laws that cover their collections and fill out the proper paperwork before they travel.

Besides, he should be thankful he didn’t have his rare stamps stolen by a baggage thief.