Officials in Manila found 1,529 rare turtles and tortoises secured with duct tape in four pieces of unclaimed baggage in the arrivals hall of Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday. Some of the reptiles are Sulcata tortoises, which are on the the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species. Others are the rare Red-Eared Slider turtles. Philippine authorities say they believe the turtles were abandoned when their smuggler panicked after seeing warning signs in the airport about penalties, including stiff fines and two-year jail sentences for illegal wildlife trafficking. The turtles, which are kept as exotic pets or killed for their meat—which is purported to be an aphrodisiac—are now in the care of the Manila Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit.
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