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Philippine police have seized more than 1,500 live turtles and tortoises found wrapped in duct tape at Manila airport.

The turtles, which may have been intended for sale as exotic pets, could have fetched as much as 4.5 million pesos ($86,631) in total, the outlet added.

Police believe the bags were abandoned after the carrier became aware of the penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking.

According to Philippine law, Illegal wildlife trading is punishable for up to two years in prison and a almost $4,000 fine.

The Bureau of Customs said the checked-in luggage arrived on board Philippine Airlines flight PR311 from Hong Kong but no passenger claimed the luggage.

Image Facebook  Bureau of Customs NAIA
Image Facebook Bureau of Customs NAIA

The animals were found in duct-taped containers in four pieces of abandoned luggage at Manila airport.

The reptiles were subsequently turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit, according to the Bureau of Customs.

Among them were threatened varieties including star tortoises, red-footed tortoises, sulcata tortoises and red-eared sliders. "Their meat is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac, while the bones are powdered for use in medicine".

A lucrative black market for rare turtles exists in Hong Kong, where poachers frequently set traps for the animals, despite all wild turtles being protected by law. Among those were 250 geckos and 254 corals smuggled in air shipments and luggage, BOC NAIA said. And earlier this year, port authorities said they found 63 chameleons, iguanas and bearded dragons in travelers' bags.

The large seizure comes just one week after smugglers were arrested in Malaysia with 3,300 endangered pig-nosed turtles aboard a boat.

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