4 min read

Airport Officials Open Suitcases And Find Hundreds Of Tiny Stowaways

Their little legs were duct-taped up — but people saved every single one 👏

Four suitcases abandoned at baggage claim in an airport in the Philippines were opened just in time to save hundreds and hundreds of lives.

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

In total, a shocking 1,529 live turtles, many with their little legs duct-taped inside their shells, were discovered by customs officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.

Each and every trapped turtle was saved. 

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

"They all survived and [are] under rehabilitation," a spokesperson for customs at the NAIA told The Dodo. 

The photographs of the turtles show the realities of the illegal wildlife trade, which is estimated to be the fourth-largest black market trade worldwide.

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

The luggage — containing star tortoises, redfoot tortoises, sulcata tortoises and red-eared sliders caught in the wild — had been on an arriving flight from Hong Kong, destined to be sold as exotic pets. 

Officials believe that the passenger abandoned the baggage after perhaps getting cold feet.

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

The customs agency has been emphasizing stricter enforcements to help prevent the smuggling of animals across borders. If caught, the smuggler could have ended up imprisoned for as long as two years and fined several thousand dollars. 

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

Rescuers sifted through the luggage, liberating even a tiny turtle who had been stuffed inside a Converse sneaker. 

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

As people gently unwrapped the duct tape from the delicate little animals, it became clear that their fate had taken a fortunate turn. 

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

Some even started poking their little heads outside their shells to have a look around. 

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA
Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

Now that they've been taken so far from their natural homes, people will have to figure out a solution for them. It is currently unclear what that might be. 

Suitcases seized in the Philippines with turtles inside
Facebook/Bureau of Customs NAIA

Many commenters expressed joy that the turtles were saved, mixed with concern about the long-term future for these animals.

"This hurts my heart," one commenter wrote. "I pray they are returned safely to their homes or appropriate locations."

One way to help animals caught up in the exotic pet trade is to spread the word and raise awareness. Decreasing the demand for exotic pets is the best way to save lives in the future. You can also donate to organizations fighting the illegal wildlife trade, like World Animal Protection