The turtles were found abandoned in the airport in four bags, probably by someone who left it there after they got to know of the punishment.
More than 1500 live turtles were found covered in duct tape and packed into suitcases at an airport in the Philippines, according to CNN. The total worth of the animals was 4.5 million Philippine pesos ($87,000) and was probably meant to be sold, according to the country's Bureau of Customs agency's Facebook post. The turtles were smuggled onto a flight from Hong Kong and were found in four unclaimed pieces of luggage at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The star, redfoot and African spurred tortoises, three of the species discovered, are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), yet they're sold as part of the illegal exotic pet trade.
The fourth species that was found, the red-eared slider turtle, is commonly kept as a pet around the world. In Hong Kong, there is a huge market for exotic and rare turtles, and despite wild turtles being protected by law, poachers regularly set traps for the animals. According to the Hong Kong government, anyone found with an endangered species faces a maximum fine of 10 million Hong Kong dollars (US$1.3 million) and 10 years in jail, and the Philippines too, have similar laws.
"The passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of Bureau of Customs against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties," the Philippine Bureau of Customs agency said, which explains why the luggage containing 1500 live turtles might have been abandoned at the airport. The agency also added that last year alone they seized a total of 560 different exotic species that were packed into parcels, luggage, and shipments in a bid to be smuggled into the country.
250 geckos, 254 corals, and other reptiles were seized, it was reported. "Earlier this year, 63 Iguanas, Chameleon, and Bearded Dragons were also intercepted through the efforts of vigilant frontliners and operatives of Customs," the agency added. The Facebook post read: Customs NAIA continues to stop illegal wildlife smuggling CUSTOMS NAIA APPREHENDS PHP4.5 MILLION WORTH OF 1,529 LIVE EXOTIC TURTLES FROM HONG KONG.
It continued: 1,529 live exotic turtles were apprehended and turned over by Bureau of Customs NAIA to DENR Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (DENR-WTMU) on March 3, 2019, at the NAIA Terminal 2, Pasay City. 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 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. Illegal Wildlife Trading is a violation of RA 10863 (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act) and RA 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act). Violators may face imprisonment of one (1) year and one (1) day to two (2) years and a fine of Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) to Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00).
The post was concluded with the message: 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. BOC NAIA will continuously protect the borders against importation and exportation of illegal wildlife trade and other prohibited and anti-social goods.
One user commented: Good job BOC, this is what you are paid to do. Thank you for saving the 1500+ turtles, knowing that only 1% of hatched turtle eggs eventually survive, this is a lot! I hope these turtles go back to their habitat. Another wrote: Thanks for saving those turtles! I cannot believe people would do something so horrible....give yourselves a pat on the back for a job very well done! Keep up the good work!