It’s sad to admit but when it comes to contraband items mysteriously surfacing, the Philippines is no stranger to such occurrences. Still, I don’t think there’s been anything quite as surprising recently as the 1,532 live turtles that authorities unearthed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. They were found inside a total of 4 pieces of luggage and were wrapped in duct tape last March 3, 2019.
The luggage was abandoned by a Filipino passenger who had just arrived from Hong Kong. The environment department’s wildlife trafficking unit estimates the total value of the turtles at P4.5 million, with individual turtles worth P400 to P20,000 each (depending on their species). It was even said to include Sulcata Tortoises, a vulnerable species of turtles on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened species.
The Bureau of Customs believes that “the passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of the port against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties, thus leaving the four x-rayed luggage unclaimed in the arrival area.” Violators of the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act face imprisonment of one year and one day to two years and a fine of P20,000 to P200,000.
The turtles have since been handed over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (DENR-WTMU). They report that 63 Iguanas, Chameleons, and Bearded Dragons were similarly apprehended this 2019. While in 2018, 560 wildlife and endangered species were turned over to the DENR.
Do you think there is enough protection in place for wildlife trafficking?
Source: Manila Bulletin