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Endangered Red Panda and 86 Other Wild Animals Found Crammed into Checked Luggage at Airport

Six individuals have reportedly been arrested for attempting to smuggle dozens of animals from Thailand to India

<p>Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook</p> A red panda found in checked luggage at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand

Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook

A red panda found in checked luggage at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand

Six people were reportedly arrested in Thailand on Monday after attempting to smuggle 87 animals, including an endangered red panda and two critically endangered cotton-top tamarin monkeys, out of the country.

Thailand's Customs Department announced the arrests in a Facebook statement — translated into English by Google — on Wednesday.

Per the statement, five males and one female were arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday for "trying to smuggle animals" internationally. The party was reportedly heading to Mumbai, India.

<p>Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook</p> A red panda found in checked luggage at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand

Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook

A red panda found in checked luggage at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists several of the animals, including the red panda, found in the checked luggage as endangered.

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The smuggling suspects are accused of attempting to export live animals without declaring them, which is a violation of animal disease control laws, per the statement Thailand's Customs Department shared on Facebook.

The 87 animals recovered at the airport included a red panda, two critically endangered cotton-top tamarin monkeys, 29 chameleons, 21 snakes, 15 birds, seven lizards, four skinks, two red-eyed squirrels, two bats, a fish tiger, a frog, a rat, and a Sulawesi bear cuscus, the statement said. Per The Guardian's report on the arrests, the Sulawesi bear cuscus is listed as a vulnerable species.

<p>Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook</p> A Sulawesi bear cuscus found in checked luggage at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook

A Sulawesi bear cuscus found in checked luggage at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand

Related: Baby Otters Are the Latest Exotic Animals to Be Sold as Trendy Pets Through Facebook

The animals were discovered inside the checked luggage stored in wicker baskets, fabric bags, or plastic tubes, according to CNN and photos taken at the scene.

CNN obtained a statement on the arrests from Kanitha Krishnasamy, the director of TRAFFIC's Southeast Asia office. TRAFFIC is a non-government organization that campaigns against the "illegal and unsustainable trade in wild species."

<p>Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook</p> A bird discovered inside checked luggage at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport

Thailand Customs Deptartment/Facebook

A bird discovered inside checked luggage at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport

Related: Month-Old Leopard Cub Found in Man's Luggage After Officials Hear Odd Noises Coming From Bag

Krishnasamy told CNN that her organization has noticed increased attempts at wildlife trafficking into India. She called the instances a "growing fad" fueled by an interest in exotic pets.

"We need to get to the bottom of the market in India," she said. "A robust understanding of the contemporary pet market is needed to guide future interventions, including on strengthened regulation and reducing demand."

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