185 Baby Galápagos Sea Turtles Seized From Smugglers
A total of 185 baby Galápagos sea turtles have been seized from smugglers after being discovered by customs officers in Ecuador.
The young turtles, which are believed to be less than three months old, were found wrapped in plastic and packed inside a suitcase that had been sent to the mainland from the Galápagos Islands on Sunday, March 28.
The discovery was made during a routine inspection at Baltra Island’s main airport, Galápagos Ecological Airport. Sadly, ten of the turtles had died, according to officials.
It’s thought the smugglers used the plastic wrap as a means of immobilising them, however the airport X-ray machine’s operator soon picked up on ‘irregularities’.
According to a Facebook post from Galapagos Ecological Airport, the airport is ‘alert against species trafficking’:
It should be remembered that our Galapagos Ecological Airport is a signatory to the Buckingham Palace Declaration, which seeks to combat trafficking in species in the world, for which we consistently train our staff and commit to notifying the relevant police authorities on shipments suspected of containing illegal wildlife and its products.
Illegal trading for animal collectors and exotic pet markets poses one of the greatest threats to the Galápagos tortoise population, with baby turtles potentially selling for more than $5,000 (£3,600) each, BBC News reports.
The suitcase in question had been posted by a transport firm, which claimed it contained ‘souvenirs’, according to an airport press release. At the time of writing, no arrests have been made. However, those employed by the transport firm in question have been held for questioning.
Ecuador’s environment minister, Marcelo Mata, said:
The Ministry of Environment and Water is collaborating in the investigations of the Prosecutor’s Office, since this fact is an environmental crime that is dealt with by the Jurisdictional power. Absolutely all the procedures required by the tax authority will be carried out.
Mata, who clarified the turtles had been taken from the wild, not from the breeding centres of the Galapagos National Park, stated that the surviving animals are now being reviewed by vets.
Condemning the actions of the smugglers, Mata said:
I categorically reject these crimes against wildlife and the natural heritage of Ecuadorians.
Individuals who are found guilty of smuggling animals from the Galápagos islands could face prison sentences of up to three years.
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CreditsAeropuerto Ecológico Galápagos/Facebook and 2 others
Aeropuerto Ecológico Galápagos/Facebook