Endangered Baby Galapagos Tortoises Seized From Smugglers at Galapagos Airport

Officials seized nearly 200 live baby tortoises hidden inside a red suitcase at an airport in the Galapagos Islands and was bound for mainland Ecuador last March 28.

According to a statement from the Galapagos Ecological Airport on the island of Baltra, 185 tortoises had been individually wrapped in plastic inside a suitcase that had been posted as containing “souvenirs” and was bound for Guayaquil Airport.

An inspector discovered the tortoises during a routine inspection after noticing “irregularities” in the X-ray scan of the suitcase, according to the statement.

It is believed that the smugglers wrapped the tortoises in plastic to immobilize them.

According to Airport Manager Jorge Rosillo, it was believed that the tortoises were being shipped for the “trafficking of species,” British media company Sky News reported.

Rosillo also said that some species of the tortoise from the Galapagos Islands were “really sought after in the Asian market.”

Officials said that 10 of the hatchlings, estimated to be less than three months old, had died. An additional five died on March 29 “possibly due to the stress they suffered from the separation of their habitat,” according to Environmental Minister Marcelo Mata.

The environment ministry said in a statement that Police Officer Nixon Alejandro had been arrested and will be charged with the crime against wild flora and fauna.

Under Ecuadorian law, illegal wildlife trafficking is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years.

The tortoises had been transferred to the Fausto Llerena breeding center on Santa Cruz Island to receive the necessary care, according to the environment ministry.

Editors Note: Story “GALAPAGOS-TORTOISES-SMUGGLING” corrected on 29.03.2021 21:27

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