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Aliaa Story

The man, a 36-year-old United Arab Emirates citizen, was waiting to check in for his flight at Suvarnabhumi International Airport when he was apprehended by undercover anti-trafficking officers, who had been monitoring him since his black market purchase of the rare and endangered animals, according to the FREELAND Foundation, an anti-trafficking group based in Thailand.

When authorities opened the suitcases, the animals yawned, said Steven Galster, director of FREELAND, who was present during the bust. There were two leopards, two panthers, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys — all about the size of puppies.

"It looked like they had sedated the animals and had them in flat cages so they couldn't move around much," Galster said. Some of the animals were placed inside canisters with air holes.

Authorities believe the man was part of a trafficking network and were searching for suspected accomplices.

"It was a very sophisticated smuggling operatio

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