Collection of 1,529 live tortoises and terrapins rescued from smuggler's luggage

Collection of 1,529 live tortoises and terrapins rescued from smuggler's luggage

Collection of 1,529 live tortoises and terrapins rescued from smuggler's luggage

The turtles, which the Bureau of Customs said could have retailed for more than 4.5 million pesos ($A122,000), were found in four unclaimed suitcases following a flight from Hong Kong.

Authorities believe the passenger abandoned the bags upon learning of the penalties associated with illegal wildlife trafficking.

The reptiles were turned over by the Bureau of Customs NAIA to the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit.

Violators may face imprisonment of one year and 1 day to 2 years and a fine of P20,000 to P200,000.

A total of 1,529 turtles and tortoises of different species were found in four pieces of unclaimed luggage in the arrivals area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday.

Three of the species discovered - the star, redfoot and African spurred tortoises - are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but are frequently sold as part of the illegal exotic pet trade.

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Officers said the cases had been brought on a flight from Hong Kong by a passenger from the Philippines and left unclaimed in the arrivals area of Manila's Ninoy Aquino worldwide airport.

The fourth species, the red-eared slider turtle, is commonly kept as a pet around the world.

Their meat is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac, while the bones are powdered for use in medicine.

A lucrative black market for rare turtles exists in Hong Kong, where poachers frequently set traps for the animals, despite all wild turtles being protected by law.

Last week, 3,300 pig-nosed turtles were smuggled into Malaysia by boat - though this attempt was intercepted by Malaysia's maritime agency.

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