Philippine Customs Authorities have intercepted over 1,500 live turtles packed inside suitcases at Manila’s International Airport, Officials said on Monday, Match 4, 2019.
The reptiles, numbering 1,529 in total, were found alive in four abandoned suitcases believed to belong to a passenger who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Hong Kong.
Among those recovered species were several star tortoises, red-footed tortoises, sulcata tortoises, and red-eared slider, the customs bureau said in a statement on Monday.
“The passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of the port against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties, thus leaving the 4 x-rayed luggage unclaimed in the arrival area,’’ the statement said.
The Philippine government has been struggling to curb the smuggling and trade of wildlife, including turtles which are banned under the country’s Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
Investigators said they are now locating the errant passenger who attempted to smuggle the reptiles.
The person could face up to two years imprisonment and or a fine of up to $2,000 if convicted of the crime. The reptiles have been turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit for safekeeping, the customs bureau statement said.