Smuggled Galapagos Turtles

Maddie Zambrowicz

In the Galapagos there was an incident where someone was smuggling turtles back to the United States. According to the BBC, one hundred eighty-five Galapagos turtles were wrapped in plastic and stuck in a suitcase by a smuggler. The runner was trying to send the turtles from the Galapagos to the mainland. Fortunately the turtles were found during a routine check in Baltra, but the unfortunate thing is that 10 of the turtles did not make it. This is one of the biggest threats to the Galapagos turtles, illegally trading them to animal collectors and exotic pet markets.  

Most likely, these smugglers were  trying to trade these turtles while they are young. The officials found that the turtles were only three months old. This smuggler had one hundred eighty-five turtles that they tried to take back to the United States. Stated by the BBC,  there is a $5,000 fee of trafficking wildlife, the cost of the runners bill would be $925,000 for taking the Galapagos turtles.

The BBC explains that the runner had told other people at the airport that he wrapped the turtles in plastic to protect them from the world, but the officials at the airport started forming a different opinion. Which caused them to hold in custody anyone that checked the suitcase that had the turtles in it to ask them some questions.The smuggler told the officials at the airport when he first arrived that the suitcase contained souvenirs. The smuggler most likely told the airport this so they would be fragile with the suitcase, because most souvenirs are glass. 

Although nobody has been arrested yet, according to the BBC the Ecuador’s environment minister named Marcelo Mata describes this issue as a “crime against the country’s wild fauna and natural heritage.” The minister also stated “that five additional tortoises have died since the hatchlings were discovered”. He feels that the other five turtles may have died from stress and being taken away from their habitat. Even though they have not addressed this as a crime yet, BBC News explains that a sentence for stealing wildlife is  approximately one to three years in prison. Just like any island, the plant life and animals found are special to that island, taking away the plants or animals is like taking away a piece of the land. 

In the Galapagos Islands, the conditions for the turtles vary. It was actually not just one type of turtle that the smuggler took. The two kinds of turtles are saddleback tortoises and domed tortoises. The saddleback tortoises normally live in the hotter climates; this would also include the drier islands. The domed tortoises like to live in a cooler climate with wetter islands. BBC News states that taking these turtles out of these conditions can cause much distress to their health. 

Even though these turtles are famous throughout the Galapagos, in no means is it right to steal the wildlife to sell at another location. This hurts the Galapagos land and  the turtles because they do not know how to survive anywhere else because they are supposed to live on the Galapagos Island. In conclusion, although you may really love the wildlife when you are traveling, do not pack it in your suitcase no matter how cute the animals are for the sole reason that it hurts the animals in the end.