More than 1,500 live exotic turtles found smuggled in luggage on flight

Some 1,529 exotic live turtles valued at more than £65,750 were found smuggled into the Philippines in a passenger’s luggage.

The reptiles were discovered by customs officials at Terminal 2 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

They had been packed in four suitcases and travelled the two-hour journey from Hong Kong on Philippine Airlines’ flight PR 311.

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The bags were abandoned at the airport and, when opened, contained a 1,500-strong collection of exotic and rare turtles, including the star tortoise, redfoot tortoise, sulcata tortoise and red-eared slider species.

The Customs NAIA team uploaded pictures of the turtles on Facebook, some which showed the animals bound with duct tape.

“Illegal Wildlife Trading is a violation of RA 10863 (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act) and RA 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act),” the bureau wrote in an accompanying post.

“Violators may face imprisonment of one year and one day to two years and a fine of 20,000 pesos (£293) to 200,000 pesos (£2,925).”

The post concluded: “BOC NAIA will continuously protect the borders against importation and exportation of illegal wildlife trade and other prohibited and anti-social goods.”

In 2018, the customs bureau said it had found 560 animals, including endangered species, smuggled into the Philippines. 

These included 250 geckos and 254 corals.

In 2019, 63 iguanas, chameleons and bearded dragons have already been intercepted.

The incident follows a story reported by The Independent in January, when officials at Berlin Schönefeld airport discovered a suspicious package inside a passenger’s pants – a boa snake.

The 43-year-old man was attempting to pass through customs on his way to Israel when he was apprehended by security staff, who discovered the reptile concealed in his underwear.

Border police were called, who made the man remove the unlikely parcel from his underwear. He proceeded to produce a small fabric bag containing the 40cm long serpent. 

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