How did a Sulcata Tortoise, native to the Sahara Desert, end up in the Philippines? That is the question Filipino customs authorities want to know after agents found four abandoned suitcases in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. When they opened them up, they were shocked to see what was inside: around 1,500 living tortoises, none native to the islands. Some tortoises were wrapped in duct tape, others were mixed in with dirty clothes and shoes.
The 1,500 reptiles came from all parts of the globe and had been left by an, as of yet, unidentified Filipino passenger flying in from Hong Kong. These animals were likely destined to be exotic pets. But some were surely destined for an even more horrific fate. In many places, tortoise meat is considered an aphrodisiac and their bones and shells can be ground down to make traditional medicines.
One of the saddest parts of this story is the fact that these animals were smuggled to the Philippines on World Wildlife Day
, a day dedicated to the celebration and awareness of the world's wild fauna and flora.
Customs officials believe the passenger probably got spooked by the harsh penalties wildlife smugglers face if caught. But the smuggler will never have to face them if they aren't apprehended.
The Manila like many other ports in Southeast Asia are hotbeds for wildlife traffickers. Last year alone, 560 different species were confiscated by customs officials.
In order to stem the tide of smuggled animals, they must work to find the people responsible — people, like the person who abandoned those 1,500 tortoises. Please sign the petition and tell the Bureau of Customs of the Philippines to find the person responsible for leaving the 1,500 tortoises and to bring them to justice.