Smuggled Indian species flood Bangkok pet market
July 07, 2011 1:10:16 AM
Moushumi Basu | New Delhi
Live Endangered Indian species are being trafficked to the infamous Chatuchak market in Bangkok, with Suvarnabhumi airport acting as the convenient transit point.
Nearly 400 live turtles, ghariyals, star tortoises besides leopard and bear cubs were recently seized at the Swarnabhumi International airport in Bangkok. According to Traffic India, Bangladesh is fast emerging as a hub for illegal wildlife trade.
“Passport, tickets, leopard cubs—that was exactly what a United Arab Emirates man was found carrying when he was arrested at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport, recently”, says Traffic India Head, Samir Sinha.
Seven infant animals-four leopard cubs, a bear cub, a baby gibbon and a marmoset-were found alive and packed in the suspect’s bags. And it wasn’t bulky luggage or suspicious behaviour that foiled the trafficker’s audacious attempt. What gave him away was the muffled cry of one of the Leopard cubs stuffed in his bag.
In another incident, 500 live protected animals stuffed into four bags, including turtles, tortoises and seven Gharials were seized from Swarnabhumi airport once again. These tortoises were found stuffed in suitcases which had not been open for 10 days. About 4-5 tortoises had died of severe dehydration. Their estimated total worth is believed to be over $30,000, believes Traffic India sources.
After X-ray revealed shapes resembling turtles, the officials opened the bags and found them packed with several species of turtles and tortoises. A fourth bag registered to the same traveller contained further animals, they added.
“These beautiful animals are destined for Chatuchak market and would have become the pets of well-to-do people, with Chatuchak market in Bangkok getting notorious for openly selling endangered species,” sources felt.
According to Rina Mitra, Additional Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) under Ministry of Environment and Forest, the matter has been taken up with Thai authorities, to establish the Indian link.
Further the airport staff, including those from baggage handling departments, have been given sensitisation training by WCCB in the international airports of Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. They need to be alert enough to instantly nab such suspicious passengers”, she said.
The sources pointed out that the turtles and tortoises found in the bags included Assam Roofed Turtles, Indian Star Tortoises Narrow Headed Softshell Turtles, Most of these species including Ghariyals figure in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits commercial international trade of these species. Gharials on the other hand are endemic to India and Nepal.
The sources in Traffic India informed that tortoises and freshwater turtles from India and other Asian countries are also being harvested to meet the demand for meat and traditional medicines. Thailand is a major hub for the international trade in illegal freshwater turtles and tortoises.
Sinha expressed concern that Bangladesh is becoming a transit point for illegal trafficking of wild animals from the region. “Traffickers are using our porous borders with Bangladesh to smuggle wild animals into Bangladesh and then transport them to South-East Asian countries,” he felt. The latest seizures illustrate that illegal trade is systematically wiping out Asia’s freshwater turtles and tortoises.