More than 1,500 turtles and tortoises found abandoned in Manila airport

Will Metcalfe
1,529 turtles and tortoises – worth up to £60,000 – have been seized at Manila airport. It’s believed they may have been abandoned when the trafficker realised the severity of penalty they could face. (Bureau of Customs NAIA)

More than 1,500 live tortoises and turtles have been seized by police in the Phillipines after being found in luggage abandoned at Manila airport.

The reptiles, 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 would-be trafficker found out about the harsh penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking.

The animals were found in duct-taped containers in four pieces of abandoned luggage at Manila airport. (Bureau of Customs NAIA)

If caught, they could face two years in jail and a fine of up to 200,000 pesos.

In total 1,529 turtles and tortoises were found in the arrivals area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday.

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According to the BBC, the haul included red-ear slider turtles and Sulcata Tortoises and – which are recognised as vulnerable on the The International Union for the Conservation of Natures Red list of Threatened species.

The Bureau of Customs said the reptiles were left behind by a Filipino passenger  who was onboard a Philippine Airlines flight from Hong Kong.
The haul included species which are included on the IUCN’s red list. (Bureau of Customs NAIA)

The animals have now been handed over to the Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit.

Turtles and tortoises 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.

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