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Exotic wildlife worth Bt200m found

Thai police yesterday searched a former Chatuchak Market animal vender's house in Sara Buri's Kaeng Khoi district and found 300400 wildlife animals in cages, worth Bt200 million totally.

Pol Maj Gen Norasak Hemnithi, chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Natural Resources and Environmental Central Investigation Bureau, who led the search, said wildlife trader Thananuwat "Ord Bang Kluay" Boonpherm who was arrested on February 4 pointed the authority to the Sara Buri house suspected to be a place to keep wildlife for trades.

The house belonged to Si Sa Ketnative Yutthasak Sutthinon, 28. Located on an isolated 100rai plot, 20 kilometres off the Mitraparp Highway, it was barb wired, guarded by dogs and had 30 security cameras, linked via Internet to be watched from Bangkok. Inside the police found some 300400 animals of 51 species including five tigers, 13 white lions, 3 pumas, and two red pandas. As Yutthasak couldn't show permits to keep these animals, the officials seized the animals by guarding the place and prohibiting animal transport, pending investigation. Yutthasak was initially charged with operating a zoo without permission and having protected animals in possession without permission - punishable to four years in jail and/or Bt40,000 in fine.

Yutthasak said he used to sell animals at Chatuchak market and a decade ago raised wildlife to open a private zoo. He said he didn't hire veterinarians full time to care for the animals but hired them on casebycase basis. He said the permits were with his father Thanajak Sutthinon who would present the permits to police later. Yutthasak also claimed that the rare animals such as red pandas, pumas and white lions were bought from Africa, Canada and South America.

Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy directorgeneral of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the 300400 animals, mostly CITES and nationallyprotected wildlife, included Tibetoriginated red pandas that even Tibet didn't have any now and 65 Marmoset monkeys - the latter of which could be sold at Bt100,000 per pair.

Theerapat said this place was arrested in 2003 for having 100 wildlife animals of ten species in possession without permission and the court fined the place owner and suspended the jail term, which already expired. It would take three days to check wildlife papers.




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