185 Baby Galapagos Tortoises Seized in Trafficking Attempt

Share Article

Galapagos National Park staff discovered 185 tortoise hatchlings—most between the ages of 1-6 months—inside a suitcase bound for mainland Ecuador during a routine inspection at the airport on Baltra Island, Galapagos. At least 10 tortoises have died; local authorities are investigating several persons of interest in this highly illegal wildlife trafficking attempt.

Baby tortoises rescued at Seymour Airport on Baltra Island, Galapagos

Baby tortoises rescued at Seymour Airport on Baltra Island, Galapagos

The young tortoises were found in dreadful condition and appear to be extremely underweight. We are in the process of collecting important data, including size and weight, for each tortoise to better assess its health condition.

On the afternoon of Sunday, March 28, Galapagos National Park staff discovered 185 Critically Endangered tortoise hatchlings inside a suitcase bound for mainland Ecuador during a routine luggage inspection at Seymour Airport on Baltra Island. The tortoises were individually wrapped in plastic to limit their movement and subsequent detection, and at least 10 of the tortoises had died in the suitcase when they were discovered. Most of the young tortoises are estimated to be between 1-6 months of age, with some appearing to be newly hatched.

Galapagos Conservancy’s Director of Conservation, Wacho Tapia, believes that the tortoises were removed from tortoise nests on Santa Cruz Island. “The young tortoises were found in dreadful condition and appear to be extremely underweight. We are in the process of collecting important data, including size and weight, for each tortoise to better assess its health condition,” said Tapia in a statement.

The surviving tortoise hatchlings have been placed in secure pens at the Giant Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center on Santa Cruz Island that is managed by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and Galapagos Conservancy, where they will be cared for under the close supervision of Park veterinarians and guardians.

Dr. James Gibbs, Vice President of Science and Conservation at Galapagos Conservancy, noted that the Galapagos National Park and Ecuadorian authorities have been working diligently to prevent the illegal trafficking of Critically Endangered giant tortoises. While the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges, we congratulate Park staff for discovering the 185 hatchlings. Galapagos Conservancy scientists have inspected the hatchlings and are assisting in the care of the surviving babies, along with the Park team.

Galapagos Conservancy, which has been supporting the Park for more than three decades, is working closely with authorities to devise strategic tactics to increase security and monitoring efforts around the natural tortoise nesting sites across Galapagos — to prevent further trafficking attempts.

For the past 35 years, Galapagos Conservancy has helped protect the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of Galapagos by supporting research, conservation, outreach, and building a sustainable society. Galapagos Conservancy is the only US-based organization focused on protecting the Galapagos archipelago. The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort of Galapagos Conservancy, Inc. and the Galapagos National Park Directorate.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kimber Wukitsch
@SaveGalapagos
Follow >
Galapagos Conservancy
Like >
Visit website