- Philippines officials say they found more than 1,500 live, exotic turtles abandoned in luggage at a Manila airport.
- The owner could face more than a year in prison for illegally important the animals, which were packed amid clothes in a suitcase.
- Hong Kong, the flight’s origin, has a thriving black market for turtles, and Filipino officials said the lot could be worth $US85,000.
Wrapped in duct tape and haphazardly packed among clothes and toiletries, that’s how Filipino customs officials say they found the hundreds of live, exotic turtles in a suitcase left at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The 1,529 turtles could be worth 4.5 million PHP (about $US86,000), the country’s customs agency said in a Facebook post, adding that the owner could face anywhere from one year and a day to two years in prison as well as a hefty fine.
“The 1,529 live turtles (Star Tortoise, Redfoot Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise, Red-eared Slider live species ) were found inside the left-behind luggage of a certain arriving Filipino passenger from flight PR 311 Hong Kong,” the Customs agency said.
“The passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of Bureau of Customs against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties, thus leaving the four (4) X-Rayed luggage unclaimed in the arrival area.”
Hong Kong, the flight’s origin, also has strict laws designed to protect endangered species. According to CNN, the country’s lucrative black market has driven some species of freshwater turtles to near extinction. Golden Coin turtles, for instance, can go for more than $US10,000.
“In 2018, the Port has turned over a total 560 wildlife and endangered species including the 250 geckos, 254 corals and other reptiles to DENR which were apprehended thru air parcels, baggage and shipments,” the Filipino customs agency said.
“While earlier this year, 63 Iguanas, Chameleon and Bearded Dragons were also intercepted through the efforts of vigilant frontliners and operatives of Customs NAIA.”