A female leopard cub, barely one-month-old was seized from a passenger at the Anna International Airport in Chennai, India on a flight arriving from Thailand on Saturday.
According to the Indian Air Intelligence Unit (AIU), the cub was brought illegally stuffed into a bag in the Thai Airways flight from Bangkok, by a passenger who is now identified as 45-year-old Kajah Moideen, 45, reports Hindustan Times.
Moideen would have left the airport undetected but for the fact that security personnel smelt and heard something in his luggage and checked his bags.
He tried to leave the airport after getting his luggage in a hurry but was stopped by security guards for interrogation. The passenger, whose nationality isn’t known, was misleading in his responses, arousing further suspicion.
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An immediate search of his luggage led to the discovery of the leopard cub, which was weak and in a state of shock, the AIU statement said.
A veterinary doctor from the Aringar Anna Zoological Park quickly called for the health examination of the leopard cub (Panthera Pardus), who weighed at 1.1 kg and measured 54 cm in length.
Luckily, the animal was found to be healthy and customs officials fed the cub milk with a feeding bottle. The cub now has been under the protection of the Vandalur Zoo, meanwhile, Moideen was arrested by the forest department, while a case is registered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the AIU, said.
Smuggling of leopards in or out of the country is illegal and banned in India, but discovery of the leopard cub in a bag has shocked customs officers who are more used to gold smuggling and, occasionally, star tortoises by passengers from Thailand.
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“We have taken the passenger into custody and are questioning him on the source of the animal,” AO Limatoshi, head of the Chennai wildlife crime bureau, said.
He further said that the investigation into this matter will now be carried out by the bureau, who will decide whether the man arrested is part of an international smuggling ring.
This article first appeared in Hindustan Times.