More than 1,500 turtles found abandoned in bags at Manila airport

Four suitcases seized by customs found to contain live animals covered in duct tape

This undated handout photo received on March 4th, 2019 from the Bureau of Customs public relations office shows turtles found inside a suitcase, covered with duct tape, during a press conference at Manila’s international airport. Photograph: Bureau of Customs/AFP/Getty Images

This undated handout photo received on March 4th, 2019 from the Bureau of Customs public relations office shows turtles found inside a suitcase, covered with duct tape, during a press conference at Manila’s international airport. Photograph: Bureau of Customs/AFP/Getty Images

 

Police in the Philippines have discovered about 1,500 live turtles wrapped in duct tape inside suitcases abandoned in an airport.

The customs bureau seized four suitcases in Manila on Sunday and found they were filled with rare and protected varieties including star tortoises, red-footed tortoises, sulcata tortoises, and red-eared sliders.

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 international airport.

The reptiles were valued at up to 4.5 million pesos (about €76,600). There is a high demand for turtles from exotic pet traders and they can also be valuable for their meat and for use in traditional medicine in some Asian countries.

More than 1,500 live exotic turtles were found inside luggage. Photograph: Bureau of Customs/AFP/Getty Images
More than 1,500 live exotic turtles were found inside luggage. Photograph: Bureau of Customs/AFP/Getty Images

The Philippines has strict laws against illegal animal smuggling and if the carrier is found they could face up to two years in jail and a fine of 200,000 pesos (about €3,400).

Wildlife smuggling continues to be a problem in the Philippines and throughout south-east Asia. The Philippine customs bureau seized 560 types of wildlife and endangered animals in 2018, including 250 geckos, 254 pieces of coral and multiple species of reptiles, and in 2019 it has already discovered 63 iguanas, chameleons and bearded dragons in parcels, airline baggage and international shipments.

The turtles have been transferred to a monitoring unit for safekeeping.–Guardian