By Evie Carrick
March 05, 2019
Philippine authorities said that they found more than 1,500 live exotic turtles stuffed inside luggage at Manila's airport. The various types of turtles were found Sunday inside four pieces of left-behind luggage of a Filipino passenger arriving at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on a Philippine Airlines flight from Hong Kong, Customs officials said in a statement.
Bureau of Customs via AP

Authorities in the Philippines deal with Illegal animal trade fairly often, but this week they had a particularly large interception as four suitcases containing 1,529 rare turtles and tortoises were found abandoned at the airport in Manila. Many of the animals were bound using duct tape and wedged among clothing and personal items. Luckily, the animals all survived.

The smuggler is believed to be a Filipino national who was traveling to Manila from Hong Kong. The Bureau of Customs at Ninoy Aquino International Airport said in a Facebook post that they believed the “passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of Bureau of Customs against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties,” prompting the man to abandon the four suitcases before the security check.

The suitcases contained several rare breeds including Star Tortoises, Redfoot Tortoises, Sulcata Tortoises, and Red-eared Slider turtles. The BBC reports that while some turtles and tortoises are kept as exotic pets, their meat is also considered a delicacy in parts of Asia and their bones are powdered to use in medicine. All the turtles and tortoises have been turned over to the country’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Illegal wildlife trading is a serious offense in the Philippines, with violators facing one to two years in prison and up to 200,000 Pesos (about $3,850) in fines. The Bureau of Customs reported that in 2018 they turned over 560 wildlife and endangered species and that in 2019 they’ve already intercepted smuggled iguanas, chameleons, and bearded dragons.

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