Officials discovered the reptiles after x-ray machines detected irregularities in a red suitcase, which had previously been said to be carrying souvenirs.

By Glenn Garner
March 30, 2021 02:05 PM
Suitcase Full of 185 Baby Tortoises Wrapped in Plastic Discovered at Galapagos Island Airport
Credit: Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador/Twitter

Nearly 200 baby giant tortoises were intercepted Sunday during an apparent smuggling attempt at an airport in the Galápagos Islands.

Staff at Seymour Airport on the island of Baltra discovered 185 baby tortoises, 10 of which were dead, wrapped in plastic inside a red suitcase. According to USA Today, X-ray machines detected irregularities in the suitcase, which had previously been said to be carrying souvenirs, leading to the discovery.

Airport officials are waiting for national and environmental police to conduct their investigations, so no charges have been filed as of Monday in connection with the suitcase. The people who checked the suitcase, which was headed for the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil, were held for questioning.

The AFP reported that an Ecuadorian policeman was arrested after airport officials found the tortoises in the luggage.

baby Tortoise
Credit: Getty

Ecuador's Environment Minister Marcelo Mata said in a statement on Twitter that he rejects "these crimes against wildlife and the natural heritage of Ecuadorians." He also noted that the hatchlings were taken from the wild and that the surviving reptiles are currently undergoing veterinary review.

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Galápagos tortoises are the biggest of their kind and can live for more than a century. The World Wildlife Fund considers the tortoises a vulnerable species in the wild, and the Ecuadorian government has protected them since 1970.

According to the BBC, smuggling any animal from the Galápagos Islands can result in a one to three years prison sentence.