More than 1500 tortoises and terrapins found in smuggler's luggage at airport

Daniel Rich was told he was fit for work despite undergoing 11 operations

The reptiles, stuffed into four unclaimed pieces of luggage, had an estimated black-market value of more than 4.5 million pesos.

Police believe the bags were left behind after the owner found out about the strict penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking in the country.

The Bureau of Customs says a Filipino passenger smuggled the turtles on a flight from Hong Kong.

The species included the star, redfoot and African spurred tortoises, which are protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Some of the animals were of the Sulcata Tortoise species - which are recognised as vulnerable on the IUCN's Red list of Threatened species.

In this March 3, 2019, handout photo provided by the Bureau of Customs Public Information Office, duct taped turtles are presented to reporters in Manila, Philippines.

The turtles, which are worth about $87,000, were found duct taped and packed into suitcases, CNN reports.

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Customs officials seized 1,529 live turtles in Manila's main airport on Sunday.

"Violators may face imprisonment of one year and one day to two years and a fine of 20,000 pesos.to 200,000 pesos", a spokesperson said.

They were found on Sunday by Philippine police.

According to Manila airport customs chief Carmelita Talusan, the passenger fled after the customs found the tortoises through X-ray screening.

Earlier this year, 63 Iguanas, chameleon and bearded dragons were also intercepted.

Last year, the Port turned over a total 560 wildlife and endangered species including the 250 geckos and 254 corals through apprehended items.

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