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《TAIPEI TIMES》Woman accused of smuggling 33 live animals onto flight

A newborn otter that was seized after being smuggled into Taiwan in carry-on airline luggage is pictured in a photograph released yesterday.
Photo courtesy of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency’s Taoyuan branch via CNA

A newborn otter that was seized after being smuggled into Taiwan in carry-on airline luggage is pictured in a photograph released yesterday. Photo courtesy of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency’s Taoyuan branch via CNA

2023/10/06 03:00

SNAKES ON A PLANE? A flight crew member briefly mistook tortoises for snakes after catching a glimpse of one’s head, resulting in a short-lived moment of panic

By Yao Chieh-hsiu and Jonathan Chin / Staff reporter, with staff writer

A woman has been accused of smuggling 33 live animals, including a marmot, otters and star tortoises, onto a flight from Thailand in a first since 2019, the Taoyuan branch of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency said yesterday.

Flight attendants notified the agency to conduct a search of VietJet Air Flight 564 on Wednesday after passengers complained about a “rodent” scurrying about the cabin, it said.

Agency personnel, airport police and flight crew combed through the aircraft for more than an hour before catching the marmot and discovering among the luggage a “large untagged bag” containing two suckling otters, two unidentified rodents and 28 tortoises, the agency said.

A female passenger surnamed Chen (陳) was named as the prime suspect in the attempt to bring animals into the nation without authorization, the agency said, adding that questions have been met with “vehement denials” from the woman.

A member of the flight crew briefly mistook the tortoises for snakes after catching a glimpse of one’s head, resulting in a short-lived moment of panic, the Central News Agency cited a passenger as saying.

The marmot, otters and rodents were transported to National Pingtung University of Science and Education’s wildlife identification laboratory to ascertain their conservation status under international conventions, it said.

The tortoises were found to be neither endangered nor in need of quarantine, the agency said.

A joint investigation of Chen has been launched by governmental agencies and the airline, it said.

The woman could face as much as NT$5 million (US$154,986) in fines if the probe finds her in breach of the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Diseases (動物傳染病防治條例), the agency said.

The agency has gained no insight into the method by which the animals were stowed on the aircraft in Thailand, it said.

Although the authorities have not charged anyone for bringing live animals into the nation for the past four years, airport janitorial staff did discover the cadaver of a meerkat in a trash can, sources said.

Additional reporting by CNA

新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES

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