Trying to sneak a slightly-larger-than-regulation shampoo bottle in your carry-on is one thing; sneaking a live animal is another.
A 45-year-old man who flew from Bangkok, Thailand, to Chennai, India, was arrested by Indian authorities after customs found a one-month-old leopard cub in the passenger’s hand luggage.
After he arrived at Chennai Airport, officials heard noises coming from his bag, and searched it as the man was trying to rush out of the terminal. They found a 2.2-pound leopard cub hidden inside a plastic grocery basket, prompting a broader investigation by authorities into whether the suspect is part of an international smuggling ring.
The suspect has not been named, and his nationality remains unclear.
Airport officials said the cub was clearly “in a state of shock and was making trill sounds, and appeared to be weak.” To restore the animal to health, airport officials tried to bottle-feed the cub, which will soon be moved to the Arignar Anna Zoo in Chennai for rehabilitation.
A.O. Limatoshi, head of the Chennai wildlife crime bureau, told AFP that “We have taken the custody of the passenger and are questioning him on the source of the animal.”
Although leopards are common in Asia, their population is decreasing because of habitat loss, trophy hunting, and hunting for wildlife trade for their skins (used in traditional ceremonies) and bones and other parts (used for medicinal purposes in eastern cultures). The species is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List.