All three of the species of tortoise confiscated are critically endangered species. The Madagascar tortoise is a particularly rare animal, with only 200 adults estimated in the wild. Illegal pet trade has been a primary cause of the animal's decline, and was apparently going to spirit away one more of the few remaining individuals were it not for the airport's intervention.
The radiated tortoise is known for being the breed of the oldest reptile ever recorded, Tu'i Malila, and for the beautiful star pattern on the plates of their shells. The spider tortoise has been exploited for its meat for decades, partially because of the decline of the preferred radiated tortoise. While all three of these species are protected by Madagascan law, little is done legally to keep the tortoises protected.