Airport security personnel at Schönefeld Airport in Berlin took in a 69-year-old man after being nabbed with a suspicious package. According to media reports, the man had lined up at the customs area where passengers have nothing declare.
Luckily, customs officers who insisted on searching the man's belongings discovered that what was packaged as three pastries was really three live Moroccan tortoises. Reportedly, the man had just disembarked from a flight coming in from Cairo, Egypt.
Trade in the rare animals attracts punitive fines
The man lied to officers that the package was carrying chocolate. However, it was a shock to officers and a shame to the man after the package turned out to be carrying tortoises.
According to a press release by the Hauptzollamt (the customs office), the event took place on March 2nd, 2019. The office further added that investigations are underway to get to the bottom of the matter. Meanwhile, the animals were taken into safe custody under the care of the veterinarian authorities at the border.
As per the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or better known as the Washington Convention, all animals are protected from such kind of activities. Therefore, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in Germany promised to pursue every person linked to the act and bring them to justice. The Washington Convention prescribes a fine of about $57,000 or about five years of jail time for anyone found guilty of flouting its regulations.
Illicit trade in rare turtles and tortoises seems to be on the rise
Interestingly, there seems to be a high demand for tortoises and turtles in the black market as incidents of such smuggling activities are quite frequent. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that about 1,529 tortoises and rare turtles were found in abandoned suitcases at the Manila Airport.
Authorities at the airport said that the animals were “bound using duct tape and wedged among clothing and personal items.” It seems the smuggler ran into some problems and elected to bolt and abandon his/her luggage. Despite the harsh environment inside the suitcases, the animals survived.
The authorities suspected the smuggler to be a Filipino and might have intended to deliver the endangered animals to Hong Kong. Among the animals included Redfoot Tortoises, Star Tortoises, Red-eared Slider turtles, and Sulcata Tortoises. Reportedly, most of the buyers of the animals keep them as exotic pets while some eat them. However, some people powder their bones and use them as medicine.