Customs officials at Thailand‘s Suvarnabhumi International Airport seized 11 live otters on Wednesday in luggage that was bound for Japan but abandoned in the departures terminal. Investigators are still analyzing security camera footage to track down the owner, but it appears that the protected species was being smuggled in order to be sold to a circus.
Officials from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation say the bags were opened after being scanned, and stuffed inside were 11 shocked baby otters; six smooth coated otters and five oriental small clawed otters, both recognized as vulnerable species. The animals appeared to be ok, but will be given health checks before being heading to the Bang-Pra breeding center for care and observation.
Otters in Southeast Asia are seen as quickly disappearing from their native habitats due to a number of issues, including a high demand for their pelts, the desire for pets, and for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Thai officials say they have confiscated a number of otter skins before, but this is the first time they’ve come across the live animals at an airport. They admit the chances of catching the suspect are slim, but the conservationists are more relieved right now that the animals are alive and can be given another chance.
[via Pattaya Mail]