An Ecuadorian policeman has been arrested after airport officials in the Galápagos Islands discovered 185 baby giant tortoises stuffed in a suitcase, prosecutors said Monday.
The baby tortoises, 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 babies had been wrapped in plastic: ten of them died in the suitcase. Another five died after they were discovered, possibly due to stress, the environment ministry said.
The environment ministry said the surviving tortoises were taken to a breeding center on the neighbouring Santa Cruz island: “The veterinary evaluation found that they are not in good health.”
The policeman will be charged with crimes against wildlife and risks a three-year prison sentence. On Twitter, Environment Minister Marcelo Mata on Sunday blasted “these crimes against Ecuadorans’ wild fauna and natural heritage.”
The Galápagos Islands, some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, are a protected wildlife area and home to unique species of flora and fauna. The largest living tortoises in the world live on the islands.
[IMPORTANTE] Declaraciones del Ministro @Marcelo_MataG sobre el presunto delito de tráfico de 185 tortugas de #Galápagos y la resolución de Fiscalía sobre el caso. #NotiMAAE@Gamanoticiasec @EcuavisaInforma @elcomerciocom @eluniversocom @el_telegrafo @noticierouno @tctelevision pic.twitter.com/hIvmAHQxSl— Ministerio del Ambiente y Agua de Ecuador (@Ambiente_Ec) March 29, 2021