1,500 exotic turtles and tortoises found duct-taped in luggage at airport

1,500 exotic turtles and tortoises found duct-taped in luggage at airport
© Bureau of Customs NAIA

More than 1,500 exotic turtles and tortoises were found bound by duct tape in luggage at an airport in the Philippines over the weekend after they were reportedly smuggled onto a flight from China.

The Bureau of Customs at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila said in a statement on Facebook on Sunday that authorities discovered 1,529 turtles and tortoises inside four items of luggage left behind at country’s main airport.

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Authorities said a passenger abandoned the exotic animals in the arrivals section of the airport prior to being checked by security. The passenger, who was said to be a Filipino national, reportedly arrived at the airport following a flight from Hong Kong, according to ABC News.

The exotic animals — some of which included star tortoises, red-footed tortoises and sulcata tortoises — were said to be worth roughly $86,000, the news agency reported.

The Bureau of Customs NAIA said in the statement that the “passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of Bureau of Customs against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties” when they decided to leave behind the luggage containing the live animals prior to security checks.

The bureau noted in its statement that those found guilty of illegal trade of wildlife in the Philippines can face fines of up to $4,000 and two years in prison under its strict Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

"BOC NAIA will continuously protect the borders against importation and exportation of illegal wildlife trade and other prohibited and anti-social goods," the bureau added.

The animals have since reportedly been turned over to the Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit of the Philippines Department on Natural Resources.