A sedated tiger cub was found in a bag with stuffed toy tigers when a traveler’s bag was screened by a random x-ray search. Airport security spotted the drugged tiger cub and confronted the bag’s owner, who denied knowing the live cub was inside. The incident took place at Bankgkok’s international airport, where the traveler was trying to fly to Iran with the tiger cub.
The cub was taken into custody by wildlife officials and had suffered, but apparently was not permanently harmed. “He appeared exhausted, dehydrated and couldn’t walk, so we had to give him oxygen, water and lactation,” said Chaiyaporn Chareesaeng, head of the Wildlife Health Unit at the Department of National Parks’ Wildlife and Plant Conservation Center. After the cub was attended to he appeared to be stabilizing. It is possible the mishandling of the animal could have caused it to perish. According to Tigerlink.org, captive tiger cub mortality is somewhat high, even under normal conditions. “Historically, the neonatal mortality rate for captive tiger cubs within the first year was about 40%; it has improved to about 35%.” DNA tests are being used to help trace the origin of the tiger cub.
The smuggler was arrested and faces up to four years in prison for two counts of wild-life smuggling. Reportedly tiger cubs can fetch over $3,000 in Iran where they are popular exotic pets. Tigers in Asia are endangered mainly due to habitat loss and poaching. Tiger body parts are sold illegally to people in China due to superstitions they have medicinal properties.
A representative of Traffic International, a British conservation group said, “they obviously think wildlife smuggling is something easy to get away with.” Some have called for much stiffer laws to protect animals. One consideration has been to increase the prison term for smuggling a live animal to ten years.
Image Credit: The PugFather
Note: picture above is not actual tiger cub.