People often try to smuggle rather odd objects across borders: drugs, exorbitant amounts of money, and in the case of one Thailand woman, a live tiger cub.
How she planned on getting the tiger cub past Bangkok security is anyone's guess, though you can't blame her for trying. She was caught when her luggage, stuffed with the two-month old cub and a host of stuffed tiger toys, went through the X-ray machine. The animal, which was drugged, appeared on the screen, prompting officials to detain her.
Giving her best "who, me?" impression, Piyawan Palasarn, who was on her way to Iran, used the tried and true "it's not my bag" defense, claiming it belonged to another passenger. She now faces upwards of four years in prison and a fine of 40,000 baht, which is equivalent to about $1300, for her failed attempt at smuggling the poor animal.
Now that she is in custody, officials must undertake the difficult task of determining not just how she acquired the animal, but where it came from and where it was going. Since exotic pets are popular in Iran, it was likely she was going to sell it on the black market, though Adisorn Noochdumrong, a Thai wildlife official, stated her particular reason for smuggling the animal was unknown.
Sadly, the poaching and trading of wildlife is a very real concern, and according to Chirs Shepherd, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia's deputy regional director, the only way to put a stop to it is to stiffen penalties. "If people are trying to smuggle live tigers in their check-in luggage," he says, "they obviously think wildlife smuggling is something easy to get away with and do not fear reprimand. Only sustained pressure on wildlife traffickers and serious penalties can change that."
There is no word on what happened to the cub, though we shouldn't rule out "imaginary friend to a spiky-haired six year old."