CHIANGRAI TIMES – A multi-agency task force comprising Thai Nature Crime Police and Department of National Parks, Wildlife & Plant Conservation (DNP) officers raided a compound in Kaeng Koi, Saraburi Province, Eastern Thailand, earlier today, uncovering over 200 live animals including numerous protected and exotic species.
Authorities discovered over 50 different species, among them: five tigers, 13 lions, three pumas, three kangaroos, four flamingos, two crowned cranes, 66 marmosets, two orangutans, and two red pandas.
Three male suspects were detained at the location after failing to produce any permit to possess the animals. Authorities are now preparing to charge them and confiscate wildlife protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
“This is the largest illegal wildlife supplier we’ve discovered,” said Royal Thai Police Major General Norasak Hemnithi, Commander of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NRECSD). “We know it’s part of an international criminal network importing protected animals from Africa, Canada and other countries, then breeding them for illegal sale,” he added.
The holding facility was discovered as authorities investigated leads from a raid on an illegal wildlife slaughterhouse in Bangkok just over a month ago (on February 5th), which made news worldwide. Eight suspects were detained that day after they were caught, literally red-handed, at a slaughterhouse in Bangkok’s Yannawa District cutting up tigers, elephants and zebras for meat and to make exotic trophies believed to be destined for export.
“The target today was running a virtual Noah’s Ark,” said Steven Galster of Freeland Foundation, which works closely with Thailand’s Task Force. “Wildlife crime King Pins like this are starting to fall because good information is crossing from the private sector into the hands of skilled and passionate officers. Now let’s hope the courts back them up.”
Officers leading today’s raid have received training and support from Asia-based counter-trafficking group Freeland Foundation. Thailand’s Nature Crime Police and Department of National Parks, Wildlife & Plant Conservation are part of the multi-agency Thai Wildlife Enforcement Network (Thai-WEN), linked to other task forces in the region through the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN).
Thailand, a hub of international smuggling, is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations. Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago.
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