Exotic species seized at airport

Sleuths from the Customs department seized rodents and reptiles, including endangered iguana, which are reared as exotic pets, from a man at Chennai airport on Sunday.
Banner-tailed kangaroo rats, prairie dogs, red squirrel and blue iguanas were seized at the airport on Sunday
Banner-tailed kangaroo rats, prairie dogs, red squirrel and blue iguanas were seized at the airport on Sunday

Chennai

The smuggler was identified as Mohamed Mohideen (28) from the city who arrived from Bangkok. Based on a tip-off, he was intercepted by the Customs officials part of the Air Intelligence Unit. As he gave contradictory replies to their questions, his baggage was examined.

Officials found eight plastic containers and a carton hidden amid dresses and chocolates. Hidden inside the boxes they found exotic species. There were 12 banner-tailed kangaroo rats, three prairie dogs, a red squirrel and five blue iguanas, which were seized.

Kangaroo rats and prairie dogs are found in North America, while red squirrel is predominantly found across Eurasia. These species are not protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. But iguana lizards, which are endemic to Grand Cayman Islands, are listed under Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in EndangeredSpecies (CITES).

Mohideen reportedly told the officials that he was given the bag by an unknown person at the airport. He was directed to hand it over to a person at the Chennai airport. However, none came to receive the bag from Mohamed, officials said.

After rodents and reptiles were classified with the help of officials from Wildlife Crime Records Bureau, a team of veterinary doctors from Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, were called to inspect them to ensure that they were in a healthy condition.

As per the suggestions of animal quarantine officials, steps are being taken to deport the animals to the countries of their origin. Mohideen was detained for further interrogation.

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