On March 3, customs officials in the Philippines seized 1,529 live turtles that were found wrapped in duct tape and stuffed inside four suitcases in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The suitcases had arrived on a flight from Hong Kong but were discarded before security checks. Officials say the animals were worth about US$87,000 on the black market.
Four species were found in the abandoned luggage: red-eared slider turtle, Indian star tortoise, red-footed tortoise, and African spurred tortoise—the latter three classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The red-eared slider, among the world’s most popular pet turtle species, is not considered vulnerable; rather, it has become an extremely problematic invasive in areas where people have released turtles originally acquired as pets into nonnative habitat.