Man smuggles leopard cub on plane to Chennai

Man smuggles leopard cub on plane to Chennai

A leopard cub after it was seized from checked baggage of a passenger travelling from Bangkok, at Chennai International airport. AFP photo

In an unusual case of smuggling, an about one-month old leopard cub was found in the baggage of a passenger who arrived from Bangkok Saturday at the airport here, Customs officials said.

The cub was handed over to the Forest department personnel who lodged it in the Vandalur zoo here, they said adding a case was being registered against the passenger, who claimed he was only a courier.

The animal was found in a plastic basket in the bag of Kaja Mohideen when the Air Intelligence officials, acting on a tip-off, examined his checked-in luggage. Mohideen (45), who arrived by a Thai Airways flight, was also handed over to the Forest department, they said.

Though Customs officials had foiled smuggling of star tortoises in the past, this was perhaps the first time they have stumbled upon a leopard cub in recent years. "The animal was in a state of shock and was making trill sounds and appeared to be weak.

The Customs officers fed the cub milk in a feeding bottle..," Commissioner of Customs Rajan Chaudhary said in a release.

Officials of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and zoo veterinarians were alerted who identified the animal as a female leopard cub, weighing 1.1 kg and about a month old and in a good condition.

"The leopard cub was seized under the Customs, Wild Life Protect Acts and as per the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora."

A senior zoo official told PTI that the cub has been brought in and was being taken care as per a protocol to be followed in such situations.

To a question, the official said a key priority was to de-stress the animal, adding higher authorities would take a call on whether it would remain the zoo or has to be sent back to Thailand.

On the motive for bringing in the animal and the offences for which the passenger has been booked, another forest official said,"questioning is underway and a case is being registered."

Pleading ignorance about the presence of the animal in the basket and the person who had handed it over to him, the passenger claimed that he only acted as a courier. He was informed someone would collect it from him and give him money, the passenger told officials during questioning.