We all know that there are certain things that you just don’t fly with. We can count on airport officials to find our favorite toiletries that we forgot exceeded the 3.4oz limit and call us out for it. Officials must be used to our forgetfulness and surely anticipate all of the mundane things we pack that we’re not suppose to travel with, but they probably weren’t expecting this.
Imagine airport officials’ surprise after screening a tourist’s suitcase to then come across nearly 200 baby Galapagos tortoises!
Pretty shocking compared to the sunscreen and souvenir-filled suitcase they’re used to, right? 185 baby tortoises to be exact were wrapped in plastic and found in a red suitcase headed from the Galapagos Islands to the port city of Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador until they were seized at the Galápagos Ecological Airport on the island of Baltra. The suitcase had been declared as carrying souvenirs, but officials noticed irregularities during an X-ray scan.
Unfortunately, fifteen of the baby tortoises that were approximately three months old were found dead.
The remaining are being evaluated by veterinarians and are reportedly not in good health. Wildlife trafficking is nothing new to this area of the world. Each tortoise could potentially fetch about $5,000 for animal collectors and exotic pet markets. Tortoises are even killed in the wild for their natural oils that can be sold at high prices on the black market. Illegal trading is one of the biggest threats these giant tortoises face.
Ecuador’s environment minister, Marcelo Mata, described the incident as a crime against the country’s wild fauna and natural heritage.
The reptiles were reportedly taken from the wild and not from the breeding centers in Gapalagos National Park and are said to be Galapagos giant tortoises. These tortoises have been living on the volcanic islands for approximately three to four million years and are not found anywhere else in the world. These incredibly unique reptiles can live upwards of 100 years and are the largest living species of their kind.
A police officer has been arrested in connection with the illegal tortoise smuggling and could potentially serve up to three years in prison for the crimes committed against wild flora and fauna.