Woman Tries to Smuggle Baby Tiger on Plane

The 2-month-old tiger cub was hidden in a suitcase full of stuffed toys.

ByABC News
August 27, 2010, 11:33 AM

Aug. 27, 2010— -- Of all the things that people have tried to take on vacation with them, this is certainly among the strangest. A Thai woman was arrested after allegedly trying to smuggle a baby tiger cub out of Thailand in her checked luggage.

Authorities first knew something was amiss when the woman checked in for her flight from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to Iran. She was acting suspiciously and, while the bag wasn't moving, it sure looked oversized. So airport employees X-rayed the suitcase.

Hidden among stuffed toy tigers was a 2-month-old real tiger cub that had been drugged.

The woman, identified as Piyawan Palasarn, 31, was arrested Sunday and the cub was sent to a wildlife conservation center in Bangkok. Palasarn faces up to four years in prison and a $1,300 fine for two wildlife smuggling-related charges.

This is not the first case of somebody trying to smuggle animals across international borders on a plane. A Peruvian man was arrested last month in Mexico City after trying to smuggle 18 small endangered monkeys under his clothing.

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And a German man stuffed 44 small lizards in his underwear earlier this year before trying to board a flight home from New Zealand.

Smuggling animals is a risky business but can reap large rewards for the traffickers.

The baby cub that Palasarn allegedly tried to take to Iran could have fetched up to $3,200 on the black market, wildlife experts say. Exotic pets are popular in Iran.

Wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said investigators are trying to determine if the cub was wild caught or captive-bred, where it came from and the suspect's intended final destination.