Eighteen endangered animals of different species were seized and handed over to the Bannerghatta Biological Park.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has arrested seven passengers, including one woman, for allegedly smuggling 18 endangered animals in their baggage at the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru a few days ago. Initially, three people were arrested. Their interrogation resulted in the arrest of four more people, the DRI said in a statement on Friday, January 27.

The recovered animals include extremely rare and threatened species like the yellow and green anaconda, yellow headed Amazon parrot, Nile monitor, red-footed tortoise, iguanas, ball pythons, alligator gar, yaki monkey, veiled chameleon, raccoon dog, white headed pionus etc. which were handed over to Bannerghatta Biological Park, according to the DRI.

The accused had arrived from Bangkok, Thailand at the airport on January 22 when their baggage was checked following a tip-off and the animals were found in it, the DRI said. “Upon examination of their checked-in baggage, it resulted in the recovery of 18 non-indigenous animals (four primates and 14 reptiles) with the assistance of Karnataka Forest Department officials,” the statement from DRI said. The import of wild animals, including their parts and products as defined in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 is prohibited.

The follow-up action with the assistance of Forest Department officials and an officer from Chennai resulted in the recovery of another 139 animals belonging to 48 different species, including 34 CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)-listed species from a farmhouse in Bengaluru used as a place of storage of similarly smuggled wildlife, the DRI said.

“Those in possession of these animals neither had any documents of the wildlife items nor any filings under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (Wildlife Division), Voluntary Disclosure Scheme till its extended deadline of March, 2021 were available,” the statement read. However, evidence of financial transactions to source non-indigenous wildlife through the route of smuggling, transactions on WhatsApp and other social media platforms have been unearthed, it added.