Hong Kong - A passenger arriving at Hong Kong International Airport from Thailand was arrested with 46 rare animals including tortoises and hedgehogs in his luggage, officials said Wednesday. The Hong Kong resident was caught with two highly endangered Angonoka tortoises, 21 hedgehogs and 23 sugar gliders - small marsupials from Australia which are popular as pets.
Acting on a tip-off, customs officials and government officers intercepted the man as he arrived at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport on Monday, a spokesman for the city's Agriculture and Fisheries Department said.
Photographs of the seizure released by the department showed the hedgehogs and sugar gliders in cardboard boxes filled with packing materials and with holes punched into the sides to allow them to breathe during the flight.
The suspect was arrested and will be charged under the laws against animal cruelty and protection of endangered species, the spokesman said. Cruelty to animals is punishable with a fine of up to 26,000 US dollars and a maximum of three years in jail.
It is not known why the animals were being smuggled into Hong Kong but rare animals are usually brought into the wealthy city of 6.9 million for sale to collectors and pet shops or for use in Chinese medicine.
Last year, 2,838 reptiles, 10 dogs, four cats and four other mammals were seized by officials from smugglers attempting to bring them into the former British colony.