Two held on animal smuggling charge

Emirati man and teenager arrested for smuggling an endangered primate are to appear in court in India.

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Two Emiratis arrested in Delhi for allegedly trying to smuggle tiny, endangered primates stuffed down their underpants into the UAE face seven years in prison if they are found guilty.

The cousins, aged 17 and 30, are expected to appear in front of two different Delhi courts today and tomorrow for their bail hearings.

The 17-year-old, released on bail yesterday after being held in a juvenile home, is set to appear before the Juvenile Justice Board today, while the 30-year-old, who is being held in Tihal Central Jail, is expected to attend the Tis Hazari district court tomorrow.

They were arrested on Sunday by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at New Delhi's international airport as they tried to board a flight to Dubai with two baby slender lorises.

They were transferring in India on a Jet Airways flight from Bangkok in Thailand.

Shaik Karimullah, the assistant director at the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, that has charged the men with possessing the endangered species, said the punishment for smuggling endangered species in India was a maximum of seven years in prison.

"The slender lorises were recovered by our security personnel during the mandatory pre-embarking security check," said a spokesman for the CISF.

"One of them had hidden a slender loris between two pieces of underwear that he was wearing. After seeing us frisking him, the other man threw the second animal into a dustbin, which we recovered after our interrogations."

A third Emirati was arrested but later released.

SB Negi, additional director of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, said the mother of the younger man arrived in India on Thursday to request bail.

"In case of juveniles, the courts are lenient," he said, adding that he cannot leave the country until the bureau's investigations are complete. He did not set a time period on when his bureau would complete the investigations.

Indian authorities said the men were in touch with the UAE Embassy in New Delhi, which was providing assistance. The embassy was not available to comment.

Meanwhile, the two animals have been handed over to Wildlife SOS, a conservation organisation.

"They are extremely delicate animals, we are quite worried for them," said Kartick Satyanarayan, the organisation's co-founder. "They are extremely stressed, they are going through a lot of trauma."

Mr Satyanarayan described the loris as "extremely endangered" with experts estimating their numbers in the wild to be less than 2,000. With a population so small, removing even a single individual can have grave consequences, he said.

"We as conservationists are extremely worried about this," he said.

"It is quite a worrying crime and what is bothering us is that these people will go to such risk."

"I would like to appeal to people who think they want such animals as pets - this is extremely dangerous and it is endangering a species in the wild in another country."