Customs officials in the Philippines discovered 1,529 live turtles in four suitcases, which belonged to a Filipino on a flight from Hong Kong to Manila. However, the man’s bags were left unclaimed at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday.
The Bureau of Customs said the checked-in luggage arrived on board Philippine Airlines flight PR311 from Hong Kong but no passenger claimed the luggage. It said staff monitoring X-ray scanners at the airport spotted objects moving inside the luggage, Xinhua News Agency reported.
They then found that the unclaimed suitcases contained several species of turtles, such as star tortoises, sulcata tortoises, red-footed tortoises, and red-eared sliders. Some were even duct-taped.
The reptiles were valued at up to 4.5 million pesos (US$86,231), Sing Tao Daily reported.
That is because there is a high demand for turtles as exotic pets, and they are valued for their meat, as well as for use in traditional medicine in some Asian countries.
“The passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of the airport against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties, thus leaving the 4 x-rayed luggage [bags] unclaimed in the arrival area,” Customs said in its statement on Monday.
The Philippines has strict laws against animal smuggling. A person caught and convicted of this crime could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to 200,000 pesos.