By Cailey Rizzo
March 15, 2019
Courtesy of Hauptzollamt Potsdam

A man put three tortoises in a pastry box and almost got away with smuggling them through customs at Schönefeld Airport in Berlin earlier this month.

The 69-year-old man debarked his flight from Cairo on March 2 and tried to pass through the “nothing to declare” line at customs. But officers stopped the man and searched his belongings, according to The Local. In a suitcase, they found the dessert box and noticed something suspicious about the three pastries inside.

They were an unusual shape with strange markings. When officials asked the man what was inside the box, he said that it was chocolate.

Courtesy of Hauptzollamt Potsdam

According to a press release, instead of sweets, officers found three living Moroccan tortoises in side the packaging.

The animals were confiscated and placed under the protection of the border veterinarian.

The Moroccan tortoise is a species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Breaking international species protection laws is punishable by a fine of up to $56,000 (€50,000) or a jail sentence of up to five years, according to the press release.

Bizarrely, turtles and tortoises are commonly smuggled across international borders in creative ways. Earlier this month, four suitcases containing 1,529 rare turtles and tortoises were found abandoned at the Manila Airport.

At the end of last year, the Wildlife Justice Commission released a report on the multimillion-dollar tortoise-smuggling industry. Turtles are highly sought after commodities for profiteers because they can be bought cheaply (for $22 in India) and resold in places like Hong Kong for up to $400, according to the organization.

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