The animals included 11 tarsiers, 11 snakes, 11 monitor lizards, eight sailfin lizards and several breeds of owl.
Police security found the animals packed in styrofoam cases which were labelled as aquatic plants.
“We received a tip last January. That is when we began our surveillance. We already observed (the suspect) going back and forth to the airport,” transporting items for shipping, said an airport spokesman.
The officer was using his position at the airport to send shipments of animals to a cohort in Japan – until he was caught by security.
Police say that his arrest will give him at least four years in jail if found guilty of violating wildlife laws.
Officials said that this is the first time they found tarsiers being smuggled out of the country at NAIA.
The Philippine tarsier is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “near-threatened.” Other species like the sailfin lizard and the eagle owl are listed as “vulnerable”, meaning they are at risk of extinction in the wild.
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