Tragically, not all of the endangered tortoises survived the transport. Apolice officer has been arrested in the alleged smuggling case, authoritiessaid.

Officials in the Galápagos Islands made a shocking discovery on Sunday of 185endangered baby tortoises packed inside airport luggage.

The tiny tortoises, roughly the size of a human hand, were wrapped in plasticand piled on top of one another inside a red suitcase, according to a photoshared by the Galápagos Ecological Airport.

The suitcase was bound for the port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. A customsdeclaration said the luggage only contained “souvenirs,” but an X-ray scanprompted an inspection, the airport said in a statement.

Ten of the tortoises were immediately discovered dead. Five more died later,possibly due to stress, the Ministry of the Environment and Water said in apress release, which also announced that a necropsy will be performed.

A veterinarian performed a health evaluation on the surviving hatchings anddetermined they were in poor health, authorities said.

A police officer identified as Nixon Alejandro was arrested and is expected tobe charged with a crime against wild flora and fauna. He faces up to threeyears in prison, according to authorities.

The giant Galápagos tortoise is only found on the Galápagos archipelago. Whenfully grown, it is the largest living tortoise in the world, according to theWorld Wildlife Fund.

The ancestors of today’s Galápagos tortoises arrived from mainland SouthAmerica 2 to 3 million years ago and then split into 14 different species, 12of which are believed to exist today. Overhunting and humans’ introduction ofother animals, including dogs, cattle and horses, have largely contributed tothe tortoises’ decline, according to the Galapagos Conservation Trust.

In 2012, the last remaining member of a species of giant tortoise from LaPinta, one of the smallest islands in the Galápagos, died at around 100 yearsold. The tortoise, known as Lonesome George, was a conservation icon and asymbol of the archipelago.

Source: Nina Golgowski HuffPost

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