ABC News (AU): Ecuador policeman held in Galapágos Islands over 185 baby giant tortoises in suitcase

Ecuador policeman held in Galapágos Islands over 185 baby giant tortoises in suitcase

Posted Yesterday at 9:06pm

Play Video. Duration: 42 seconds
Authorities seize 185 tortoises due to be smuggled from the Galápagos.

An Ecuadorian policeman has been arrested after airport officials in the Galápagos Islands discovered 185 baby giant tortoises stuffed in a suitcase to be trafficked.

Key points:

  • Ten of them had died by the time the suitcase was opened and another five have died since
  • The policeman will be charged with crimes against wildlife and risks a three-year prison sentence
  • The environment ministry said the surviving tortoises were taken to a breeding centre on the neighbouring Santa Cruz island

The reptiles, no more than three months old, were found in luggage destined for Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador during a routine inspection on Baltra Island, authorities said.

The juvenile critters had been wrapped in plastic, and 10 of them had died by the time the suitcase was opened.

Another five have died since, possibly due to stress, the environment ministry reported.

The policeman will be charged with crimes against wildlife and risks a three-year prison sentence, the prosecutor’s office in Ecuador tweeted.

A close-up of a tortoise found in a suitcase.
The reptiles are listed as endangered.(AFP: Galapagos National Park)

The Galápagos Islands, some 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador, are a protected wildlife area and home to unique species of flora and fauna.

The Galápagos are where Charles Darwin’s observation of birds and tortoises on different islands gave rise to his theory of natural selection.

The reptiles — the largest living tortoises in the world — are the volcanic islands’ star attraction, but are listed as endangered.

The environment ministry said the surviving tortoises were taken to a breeding centre on the neighbouring Santa Cruz island.

“The veterinary evaluation found that they are not in good health,” it added.

Tortoises in a suitcase.
The reptiles were found in luggage destined for Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador.(AFP: Galapagos National Park)

According to the Galapagos Conservation Trust, the giant tortoise arrived in Galápagos from mainland South America some 2 to 3 million years ago, diversifying into 14 species on different islands.

After the death of Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise in 2012, 12 species are thought to remain today, scattered over 10 islands.

About 1.5 to 1.8 metres long, the slow-breeding creatures can live to over 100 years.

AFP
Posted Yesterday

Read the original coverage via ABC News (Australia) at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-30/ecuador-policeman-baby-tortoises-suitcase-galapagos-islands/100037890


Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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