You’d imagine with all the high tech monitoring devices installed in airports, more people would think twice before trying to smuggle illegal goods through. It’s tough enough to get through TSA even when you don’t have any banned items on you.
The call of a large paycheck still tempts many people, however, and last week a wide array of turtles were discovered crammed into luggage that was left at an airport in Manila, Philippines.
Originating from Hong Kong, the suitcases were packed with $87,000 worth of turtles, according to PIX11. The reptiles had been duct-taped, seemingly to keep them from shifting around and clawing through their containment.
“1,529 live exotic turtles were apprehended and turned over by Bureau of Customs NAIA to DENR Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (DENR-WTMU) on March 3, 2019 at the NAIA Terminal 2, Pasay City,” the Bureau of Customs NAIA posted.
“The 1,529 live turtles (Star Tortoise, Redfoot Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise, Red-eared Slider live species ) were found inside the left-behind luggage of a certain arriving Filipino passenger from flight PR 311 Hong Kong.”
Some were crammed into cardboard boxes, others were strapped into plastic storage containers with holes drilled in the sides and top.
Still a few more were duct-taped and wrapped in clothes inside the suitcases.
“Our staff were taking care not to hurt them because duct tape was used to immobilize the turtles,” Carmelita Talusan, customs chief at the airport, said according to NowThis.
While one species of turtle was the pretty well-known and common red-eared slider, three others were marked as “vulnerable” and possession would have earned a huge fine of up to $1.3 million dollars in Hong Kong.
Of course, that hasn’t deterred some black market entrepreneurs from trying their hand at smuggling, though the Bureau of Customs has a theory as to why these four suitcases of reptiles were never picked up.
“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,” their post continued.
“Illegal Wildlife Trading is a violation of RA 10863 (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act) and RA 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act).”
The post went on to explain that in 2018 alone, “250 geckos, 254 corals and other reptiles” were discovered in shipments, in baggage, and in other forms of transportation. In 2019 so far, their count has included chameleons, bearded dragons and iguanas.
Thankfully, these critters were found and given over to the proper authorities, where they will hopefully find better care and be kept off of the black market.