More than 1,500 turtles found duct-taped inside luggage at Manila airport

More than 1,500 turtles found duct-taped inside luggage at Manila airport

More than 1,500 turtles found duct-taped inside luggage at Manila airport

In this March 3, 2019 handout photo provided by the Bureau of Customs Public Information Office, duct-taped turtles are mixed inside luggage as they are presented to reporters in Manila. The animals had been bound with duct tape and shoved between clothes-but they were still alive.

On Sunday, customs agents found 1,529 turtles and tortoises inside the unclaimed suitcases, which were likely left behind by a passenger traveling from Hong Kong to Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Several species discovered in the suitcases are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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

Turtles and tortoises have been a major target of the illegal wildlife trade.

The turtles have been transferred to a monitoring unit.

Other recent seizures have highlighted the scope of the problem.

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The animals were valued at 4.5 million Philippine pesos, or $87,000, according to a Facebook post from the Bureau.

And when they opened them, they found a startling surprise - more than 1,500 exotic turtles and tortoises.

The Philippines has strict laws against animal smuggling and, if found, the carrier could face up to two years in jail and a fine of 200,000 pesos.

Discoveries of smuggled wildlife are not uncommon in the Philippines.

"Earlier this year, 63 Iguanas, Chameleon and Bearded Dragons were also intercepted through the efforts of vigilant frontliners and operatives of Customs", the agency added.

In 2018 the airport discovered a toal of 560 items being smuggled due to the illegal wildlife trade, including 250 geckos and 254 corals smuggled in parcels, baggage and in shipments.

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