Customs officials made an unusual discovery in the Philippines on Sunday – more than 1,500 live turtles stuffed in suitcases. The turtles were found taped in the left luggage, said the customs authority at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
The 1,529 exotic turtles were worth an estimated 4.5 million Philippine pesos on the black market – that’s about $ 86,750. The Swedish Customs says that a Filipino passenger smuggled the turtles on a flight from Hong Kong. “The passenger may have been informed of the customs authority’s vigilance against illegal trade in wild animals and its sanctions, which has left the four (4) X-rayed luggage unoccupied in the arrival area,” the agency wrote on Facebook.
The agency shared several photos of the turtles – some of them packed in suitcases with clothes and other belongings. Several different types of turtles were found in the suitcases, including Star Tortoise, Redfoot Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise and Red-eared Slider, according to the Facebook post.
Last year, customs officials said they confiscated a total of 560 wildlife and endangered species at the airport, including 250 geckos, which were handed over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. So far this year, 63 iguanas, chameleons and bearded dragons have been caught.
Violators could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 pesos (US $ 3,857), the agency said.