More than a dozen giant tortoises have been released home on the Galapagos Islands after spending decades in captivity to repopulate the species.
Nearly 200 turtles, all less than three months old, were found in a suitcase at an airport in the Galapagos Islands on Sunday morning in what officials say was an attempt to smuggle the animals off the islands.
In a statement released by the airport, X-ray machines detected irregularities in a red suitcase that allegedly carried souvenirs. When staff opened the suitcase, they found 185 young turtles wrapped in plastic, including 10 that were dead.
Marcelo Mata, Environment Minister of Ecuador, tweeted on Sunday afternoon that he categorically rejects “these crimes against the wildlife and natural heritage of Ecuadorians”. He said the turtles were taken from the wild and the survivors were undergoing veterinary examinations.
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No charges were filed on Monday afternoon in connection with the suitcase as airport officials wait for state and environmental police to investigate, but the people who registered the suitcase have been held for questioning, according to the report. airport release.
The turtles were meant to be sent to the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil.
The illegal sale of these rare turtles can fetch thousands of dollars, but smuggling any animal from the islands can result in one to three years in prison.