An Ecuadorian policeman was sentenced to three years in prison for trying to traffic 185 baby giant tortoises off the Galápagos Islands.
The baby tortoises were only three months old when they were found in luggage destined for Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador during a routine inspection on Baltra Island.
The baby tortoises had been individually wrapped in plastic. Ten had died in the suitcase, five died when they were discovered, and seventeen died later because the animals were found in such bad health.
The policeman was also fined $639,000 and must apologize publicly on national media, the environment ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
The sentence constitutes “a precedent for the benefit of nature, fauna, biodiversity and most of all for the honesty that the planet deserves,” said Environment Minister Marcelo Mata.
“The trafficking of protected species is a blow to nature,” said Danny Rueda, director of the Galápagos National Park.
The Galápagos Islands, situated 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, contains unique flora and fauna not seen anywhere else on earth and is part of a biosphere reserve.
The giant tortoises are the volcanic islands’ star attraction but are listed as endangered. The slow-breeding animals can live more than 100 years.
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