DW: Suitcase with 185 baby giant tortoises discovered at Galapagos airport

Date 30.03.2021
Permanent link https://p.dw.com/p/3rOuI

The turtles were found on Sunday wrapped in plastic inside a red suitcase destined for mainland Ecuador. A police officer has been detained, according to authorities.

Rescued baby turtles are seen in this image provided by the Galapagos National Park.

The Prosecutor’s Office reported on Monday that an Ecuadorian policeman was arrested for trafficking 185 baby giant tortoises from the Galapagos Islands, found in a suitcase that had to be transported by plane to the mainland.

“The police officer Nixon Alejandro P. D. will be prosecuted for his alleged responsibility in the failed shipment of 185 turtles to #Guayaquil,” a port located southwest of Quito, the entity said on Twitter. 

The Prosecutor’s Office added that “he will be charged with the crime against wild flora and fauna, which is punishable by 3 years in prison.

Authorities at the Ecological Airport of the Galapagos Islands, about a thousand kilometers west of the coast of Ecuador, reported on Sunday the discovery of 185 giant tortoise babies, ten of them dead, in luggage that was destined for the continent.  

The airport company reported in a statement that it detected “a shipment of 185 turtles that intended to be sent to the city of Guayaquil” and that were found inside luggage suitcases that had been declared as carriers of “souvenirs.”  

He also specified that the control operation was carried out jointly with personnel from the Galapagos National Park (PNG) and reported that, of the total number of turtles found wrapped in plastic, ten failed to survive.  

One of the baby turtles found in the suitcase.

A total of 15 dead turtles

The Ministry of the Environment and Water said in a statement Monday that “five more turtles died, possibly as a result of the stress they suffered from the separation of their habitat.” 

He added that the Prosecutor’s Office ordered the PNG to maintain the chain of custody of specimens, which were transferred to its breeding center for turtles in captivity on Santa Cruz Island, which neighbors the uninhabited Baltra. “The veterinary evaluation determined that the turtles are not in good health,” the release noted. 

The scientist Washington Tapia, an expert in giant tortoises, said in turn that “for now it is not possible to determine which species the turtles belong to. It is impossible with the naked eye to identify the species of turtles even when they are adults, only the type of carapace [it has], whether it is saddle or dome [shaped].”

“The only precise way to be able to determine the species to which they belong is through genetic analysis,” he said. 

The operator of the Baltra airport pointed out on Sunday that “the age of the turtles does not exceed 3 months of life and their carapace is extremely young” in reference to determining the island from which they were taken.

The smugglers had wrapped the little turtles in plastic.

The Galapagos Islands were declared in 1978 as a Natural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco thanks to its rich terrestrial and marine biodiversity, where many unique species live in the world.  

This archipelago is made up of 13 large islands, 6 minor and 42 islets, and is considered a natural laboratory that allowed the English scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory on the evolution and natural selection of species.

Read the original coverage from DW at https://www.dw.com/es/descubren-maleta-con-185-cr%C3%ADas-de-tortugas-gigantes-en-el-aeropuerto-de-gal%C3%A1pagos/a-57056138

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

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