Police in the Philippines have seized more than 1,500 live turtles found wrapped in duct tape at Manila airport.The turtles, found in four unclaimed pieces of luggage, could have sold for more than 4.5 million pesos (£60,000; $86,631).
Police believe the bags were abandoned after the carrier found out about the harsh penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking.If caught, they could face two years in jail and a fine of up to 200,000 pesos.
A total of 1,529 turtles of different species, including Sulcata Tortoises – which are recognised as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red list of Threatened species – were found in four pieces of unclaimed luggage in the arrivals area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday.
The Bureau of Customs said the turtles were left behind by a Filipino passenger who was onboard a Philippine Airlines flight from Hong Kong.
It said the passenger could have abandoned the luggage after they were “informed of the vigilance… against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties”.
The turtles have now been handed over to the Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit.
Turtles are often kept as exotic pets, but are sometimes also used as a form of traditional medicine or served as a delicacy across parts of Asia.
Their meat is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac, while the bones are powdered for use in medicine.
Last week, 3,300 pig-nosed turtles were smuggled into Malaysia by boat – though this attempt was intercepted by Malaysia’s maritime agency.