More than 1,500 turtles and tortoises were found duct taped and stuffed into four suitcases that were abandoned at a Philippines airport.
According to the Bureau of Customs at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (BOC NAIA) in Manila, authorities discovered the 1,529 live exotic animals that were believed to be from a Filipino national who was trying to smuggle the creatures into the country on a flight from Hong Kong.
“The passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of Bureau of Customs against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties, thus leaving the four X-Rayed luggage unclaimed in the arrival area,” the BOC NAIA said in a statement.
Among the wildlife were star, red-footed and African spurred tortoises and red-ear slider turtles, with a total value of about C$115,000.
Photos show the turtles bound with duct tape among clothing while others were in plastic containers and small cardboard boxes.
Authorities had already intercepted 63 iguanas, chameleon and bearded dragons earlier this year.
In 2018, authorities turned over 560 wildlife and endangered species to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit. Among those were 250 geckos and 254 corals smuggled in air shipments and luggage, BOC NAIA said.
Convictions for the illegal trading of wildlife are punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years and subject to fines.