At the end of April 2017, the Peruvian wildlife protection authorities intercepted a bus bound for Lima. The officers then put their hands on an old cardboard box, which hid a very sad secret.
Inside were 29 baby giant tortoises of the Galápagos, of which there are now only 15,000 individuals in freedom. The turtles were decimated by man after the discovery of the Galapagos Islands in 1535. The reptiles were hunted for their meat by whalers and pirates, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Animals introduced by European settlers, such as goats, have also had devastating effects on the vegetation and have led to the destruction of the natural habitat of turtles. Three subspecies of the Galapagos turtles are unfortunately already extinct.
Today, the species is particularly threatened, especially as it faces regular poaching. The animals are intended for the black market of pets, mainly in Europe.
Of the 29 babies discovered by the Peruvian authorities, two were unfortunately already dead. The reptiles were packed in cellophane, to prevent them from moving and making noise, and left without care. DJ Schubert, a biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said:
They were not fed, had no water. They can survive for some time without food or water, but they are not indestructible. I’m sure they felt fear too.
The turtles have been entrusted to a Peruvian zoo and will soon return to the Galápagos. If these babies could be saved, other animals do not have that chance and land on the black market. DJ Schubert concludes:
We must do more, individually and collectively, to eradicate this illegal and odious trade in wildlife.