BANGKOK: Thai authorities have arrested a man and seized exotic creatures and animal body parts during a major raid near the capital.
Live tigers, bears and orang-utans, together with bodies and body parts of numerous other animals, were found at a house in Nonthaburi, a northern suburb of Bangkok, during Tuesday's raid, said Steve Galster, Asia regional director of the international group WildAid.
He estimated the value of the haul to be at least US$300,000 (RM1.1mil). The animal parts were destined for illegal wildlife restaurants, he said.
Police withheld the name of the man arrested.
Galster, who was present during the raid, said the same suspect had been arrested twice previously for the same offences, highlighting the weaknesses of Thai laws against the wild animal trade.
The maximum penalty for trafficking in protected species is four years in prison and a fine of 40,000 baht (RM$3,800). Despite recent crackdowns, wildlife poaching and trafficking is rampant in Thailand due to outdated laws, lax enforcement and corruption.
There's still a trade for what appears to be Asian tourists coming to restaurants in Bangkok and Pattaya,'' a popular seaside resort south-east of the capital, Galster said.
He said Thai, Chinese and Korean tourists are the main consumers of wildlife cuisine. Exotic and sometimes endangered species are considered delicacies in Chinese cuisine, and believed to have therapeutic value.
About 50 police officers and wildlife protection officials from the forestry department were involved in the raid, Galster said.
He said other live animals found, including two orang-utans from Indonesia, birds and rare snakes, were probably meant for collectors. He said most of the six tigers rescued appeared to be tame, and were likely bought from a local tiger farm for breeding, with their offspring killed for their skin, bones and organs.
Four dead tigers were also recovered, along with four live bears and five dead ones and several sets of bear paws which are considered a delicacy by Koreans. AP