Officers at Berlin's Schönefeld airport were startled to discover three live tortoises in a pastry box.

On March 2 the shelled amphibians were smuggled into the airport aboard a flight from Cairo.

They were discovered in the possession of a 69-year-old passenger, attempting to pass through the "nothing to declare" line into Germany.

The half-baked scheme involved hiding the animals in an empty pastry box and claiming they were edible treats.

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The shells of the tortoises were clearly visible through the cake packaging.

When questioned, the man claimed these were edible 'chocolate' animals made to look like shells.

However, on further inspection they were confirmed to be three live Moroccan tortoises.

The three tortoises were confiscated and are in the care of the airport's border vet.

Sweet treats: The three Moroccan tortoises. Photo / CHauptzollamt Potsdam
Sweet treats: The three Moroccan tortoises. Photo / CHauptzollamt Potsdam

These animals are protected under the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

If guilty of breaking these international laws against animal trafficking the man could face up to €50,000 in fines or a five year jail sentence, according to the press release.

Illegal caches of tortoises and turtles are regular discoveries by boarder security.

Just this month four suitcases containing 1529 Indian tortoises were intercepted at Manila airport. They were travelling to Hong Kong, where the animals can fetch 20 times the price.

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Last year the Wildlife Justice Commission released a report on the international tortoise smuggling industry suggesting it contributed millions of dollars to a black market for the animals.

Codenamed 'Operation Dragon' between 2014 and 2018 the investigation with Interpol led to 100,000 tortoises and freshwater turtles being seized from illegal traders.