Customs officials made an unusual discovery in the Philippines on Sunday — over 1,500 live turtles stuffed into suitcases. The turtles were found duct-taped in left-behind luggage, the Bureau of Customs at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila said.
The 1,529 exotic turtles were worth an estimated 4.5 million Philippine pesos on the black market — that's about $86,750 U.S. dollars. The Bureau of Customs says a Filipino passenger smuggled the turtles on a flight from 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," the bureau wrote on Facebook.
The bureau shared several photos of the turtles — some of them packed in suitcases with clothing and other belongings. Several different types of turtles were found in the suitcases, including Star Tortoise, Redfoot Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise, and Red-eared Slider, according to the Facebook post.
Last year, customs officials said they confiscated a total of 560 wildlife specimens and endangered species at the airport, including 250 geckos, which were turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. So far this year, 63 iguanas, chameleons and bearded dragons have been intercepted.
Violators may face up to two years of imprisonment and a fine up to 200,000 pesos (U.S. $3,857), the bureau said.