Flying ‘fur’st class
By JEREMY OLSHAN
Last Updated: 7:47 AM, May 14, 2011
Posted: 2:49 AM, May 14, 2011
This guy deserved to be charged for his first bag.
A 36-year-old man attempted to board a flight in Thailand with a virtual zoo in his luggage, including a baby bear, panthers, leopards and monkeys.
Thai police busted Noor Mahmoodr at a Bangkok airport after he attempted to smuggle out the wildlife. At least he had a first-class ticket.
Mahmoodr, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, was charged with smuggling endangered species out of Thailand, said Col. Kiattipong Khawsamang of Thailand’s Nature Crime Police.
Authorities caught on to the scheme after Mahmoodr abandoned one of his bags in the airport lounge because the animals were being too noisy.
“This is a very unusual case and a very large one, so we really applaud the Thai police for going after them as strongly as they did,” said Roy Schlieben, of the wildlife protection group Freeland.
Several people were thought to be involved, and police investigations are under way into a wider network of traffickers, Schlieben said. The animals — all less than 2 months old–were put in the care of local veterinarians.
“There’s a pretty strong likelihood that some of them wouldn’t have survived the flight in the condition they were in,” he said. “The fact they were transported alive would indicate the person at the other end wanted to keep them in their residence or some sort of zoo or maybe even breed them.”
If convicted, Mahmoodr could face up to four years in prison and a $1,300 fine, Kiattipong said.
The animals had all been sedated for the flight to Dubai, police said. When cops opened the luggage, the yawning baby animals started to cry, said Steven Galster, the director of Freeland.
Along with Mahmoodr’s clothing, the bags contained two macaque monkeys, two panthers, two leopards and a black bear.
“It looked like they had sedated the animals and had them in flat cages so they couldn’t move around much,” Galster said.
Several of the critters had been stuffed in canisters with air holes. Fortunately, none were harmed by the ordeal.
The menagerie made it past security because the luggage was only screened with metal detectors.
“They’re not metal, these animals,” Galster said. “The canisters they were put in could have disguised them looking like clothes folded up.”
Thai authorities suspect Mahmoodr purchased the infants on the black market as part of a much larger operation.
“It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We’ve never seen one like this before,” Galster said. “The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcase.”
NEW YORK POST
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