Wildlife smuggling on the rise

Smugglers bagged at airports

The high number of arrests of wildlife smugglers recently around the world has caused law-enforcement officials to predict that the illegal practice—which can be very lucrative for those involved—is on the rise, according to media reports.

On Aug. 27, Bangkok airport officials caught a Thai woman on her way to Iran with a 3-month-old sedated tiger cub wedged in a suitcase with stuffed animals. She told officials the suitcase was not hers, but was arrested and charged with wildlife smuggling. She could face up to four years in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht (roughly $3,000).

The day before, a Malaysian man was traveling to Indonesia when he was caught with 95 boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers and a matamata turtle, which caught officials’ attention after his suitcase broke. On Sept. 7, he was sentenced to six months in a Malaysian jail and a fine of 190,000 ringgit ($61,000)—a sentence most conservationists think is too light.

The illegal trade is also a problem in the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service is still looking for Isaac Zimmerman, a man charged with smuggling piranha and freshwater stingrays, since he missed his court date in August.