A barely one-month-old female leopard cub was seized from a passenger who arrived at Chennai’s Anna International Airport on a flight from Thailand early on Saturday, carrying the cub in a stroller bag, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) said.
The passenger, identified as Kajah Moideen, 45, brought the cub in a plastic basket that he had stuffed in the bag he carried on the Thai Airways flight from Bangkok, an AIU statement said. He would have left the airport undetected but for the fact that security personnel smelt and heard something in his luggage and checked his bags.
After collecting his checked-in luggage, Moideen tried to leave the airport in a hurry but was intercepted by security guards for questioning. The passenger, whose nationality isn’t known, was evasive in his replies, prompting an inspection of his luggage.
The search 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 from nearby Vandalur was called in to examine the condition of the leopard cub, belonging to the species Pantheras Pardus. Weighing 1.1 kg (2.4 lbs) and 54 cm (21 ins) in length, the animal was found to be healthy. Customs officials fed the cub milk with a feeding bottle.
The cub was entrusted to the Vandalur Zoo and Moideen was handed over to the forest department, so that action can be taken against him under the Wildlife Protection Act ,1972. An investigation is on, the AIU, said.
The discovery of the leopard cub in cabin baggage has stunned customs officers who are more used to attempts by passengers from Thailand to smuggle in gold and, occasionally, star tortoises.Smuggling of leopards in or out of India is illegal.
“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 said the bureau was investigating whether the man was part of an international smuggling ring.
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