Over the weekend, employees at a Galápagos Island airport found a suitcase filled with 185 giant tortoises, all younger than three months old, wrapped in plastic.
According to a statement by the airport, the tortoises were found during a routine luggage inspection at Seymour Airport on Baltra Island on Sunday, after “irregularities” were noticed during an X-ray scan of the suitcase.
— Ministerio del Ambiente y Agua de Ecuador (@Ambiente_Ec) March 28, 2021
— Aeropuerto Ecológico de Galápagos (@aerogalapagos) March 28, 2021
The tortoises were destined to Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador. At least 10 of the tortoises were found dead. Another five died one day later.
The remaining tortoises are currently undergoing veterinary reviews, USA Today reported.
The individuals who checked in the suitcase have been held for questioning, while at least one Ecuadorian police officer has been arrested.
In a statement on Twitter on Sunday, Marcelo Mata, Ecuador’s environment minister, said that he rejects "these crimes against wildlife and the natural heritage of Ecuadorians."
Galapagos tortoises can live over 100 years. According to the World Wildlife Fund, they are considered to be a vulnerable species and have been protected by the Ecuadorian government since 1970.