(LONDON) — A red panda was among 87 animals seized by Thai customs agents after they were discovered in checked luggage at Thailand’s main international airport.

The animals were discovered at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Wednesday by Thai customs agents in checked luggage headed to Mumbai, India, Thailand’s Customs Department announced.

The red panda was discovered among dozens of animals including chameleons, snakes, birds, lizards, red-eye squirrels, cotton-headed monkeys, a frog, Sulawesi bear cuscus, a frog and a rat.

Photos of the airport bust published by Thailand’s Customs Department show the animals bound in baskets, bags and plastic containers hidden inside the checked luggage bags.

Thai officials say the animals are “CITES-listed,” categorized as threatened by international trade by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We have found a total of 87 animals, all of which were hidden in the luggage that passengers would check in the plane,” Thai Customs Department said in a statement.

Six Indian nationals — five males and one female — have been arrested on suspicion of wildlife smuggling and breaches of customs legislations, officials say.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport — also known as Bangkok Airport (BKK) — is Thailand’s biggest and busiest airport with a total of 51,699,104 passengers flying through the airport in 2023 according to statistics published by the airport.

Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s most biodiversity-rich nations, home to several rare species of mammals, flora and fauna. But it is its rich biodiversity that has made it a major hub for illicit wildlife trafficking and trade.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Thai’s customs officials have made dozens of CITES-protected wildlife seizures over the years with its agents seizing an estimated 10,00 turtles and tortoises, almost 6 tons of pangolin and an estimated 7 tons of ivory between the years of 2014 and 2017.

INTERPOL says wildlife crime has become “one of the world’s largest and most profitable crime sectors.”

“Over a decade of INTERPOL engagement, wildlife crime has become one of the world’s largest criminal activities,” says Steven Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s executive director of Police Services.

Meanwhile, if the suspects are found guilty of wildlife smuggling, the six individuals may face up to 10 years in jail or a heavy fine.

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