More than 1,500 turtles were found wrapped in duct tape in an airport in the Philippines.
The live turtles were found inside four unclaimed suitcases at an airport in Manila. They were smuggled onto a flight from Hong Kong.
“Our staff were taking care not to hurt them because duct tape was used to immobilize the turtles,” Manila Airport customs chief Carmelita Talusan explained.
The turtles are estimated to be worth $87,000 on the wildlife black market. Three of the species discovered— the Star, Redfoot, and African Spurred Tortoises— were labeled “vulnerable” by an international nature conservation organization.
The Philippines is a major hub for wildlife trafficking and illegal exotic pet trade.
“It’s for business purposes,” The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Benny Antiporda stated. “The turtles are expensive. It’s such a lucrative business. There are buyers and collectors who treat them as pets.”
According to the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs, 560 wildlife and endangered species were apprehended in luggage, parcels, and shipments in 2018. Selling exotic wildlife is illegal in the Philippines and can result in fines and imprisonment.
The 1,529 exotic turtles were turned over to a government agency.