Thai police have saved 88 macaques from being trafficked as exotic foods after a routine interception of a stolen pickup truck with false license plates.
On Thursday, Crime Suppression Division (CSD) investigators and officers from the Sri Maha Phot station in Prachin Buri launched the operation with no idea that it would have such a dramatic outcome. They expected to seize the stolen vehicle after confirming that the target was in the province.
“We only planned to seize a vehicle but it turned out we saved many macaques,” Pol Maj Gunjira Norrasan, a CSD officer specializing in recovering stolen vehicles, told reports in Bangkok.
Police found the pickup driving on a road near the station in Sri Maha Phot district, chased it, and forced the driver to stop. The 25-year-old driver Panupong Jusing was arrested.
Later, a search of the truck’s covered bed revealed plastic cages with 88 live macaques in deteriorating condition and another 14 dead.
CSD chief Pol Maj Gen Suwat Saengnoom said that, under interrogation, Mr. Panupong stated that he had been paid 3,000 baht to transport the animals from Phichit to a customer in Sa Kaeo. The monkeys were allegedly taken from the border province to Cambodia.
A report from Sri Maha Phot police and the CSD said that the driver had made two deliveries before being caught on the third attempt.
The reports also showed that the animals were intended to be sold as an exotic food in another country, Pol Maj Gen Suwat added. However, Thailand’s Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act classifies macaques as a protected species.
Authorities launched an investigation to track down more traffickers behind the network.
On Friday, the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division requested the cooperation of the CSD and the Sri Maha Phot police to transfer the case to the agency. Pol Maj Gen Pitak Uthaitham, chief of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, said the driver would undergo another questioning as officers expect to find more information that could lead to more arrests for illegal animal trade.
Arrest warrants for more suspects would be issued soon, Pol Maj Gen Suwat said, adding that the macaques were taken to a wildlife center for care.