SHOCKED authorities say that 123 giant turtles have been stolen from the Galápagos Islands, a huge tourist attraction for the area.
A TOTAL of 123 baby giant turtles have been stolen from a breeding facility in the Galápagos Islands, a politician from Ecuador’s prized archipelago in the Pacific said.
“They were all taken at once, 123 in all. It was a robbery,” Washington Paredes said by phone on Thursday. He said it happened Tuesday of last week.
Galapagos National Park said it was preparing a statement on the alleged theft of the hatchlings from a facility on Isabela, one of the islands.
Lumbering adult giant turtles are a beloved symbol of the islands that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Environment Ministry also said it would issue a statement when it had official information.
Paredes complained that the breeding facility where the theft occurred was poorly protected, with no security cameras or light sensors.
“The turtles are just there. If somebody wants to go in by night and steal, they can,” he said.
In June, 26 adult turtles that had been smuggled to Peru were returned to the islands.
Twelve species of giant turtles live on the islands, which are a United Nations natural heritage site
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the theft of the animals – which were of the Chelonoidis vicina and Chelonoidis guntheri species – from the centre on Isla Isabela, the ministry said.
Galapagos tortoises are a huge tourist attraction for Ecuador and the country has harsh penalties for environmental crimes. The thieves face up to 10 years in jail if caught.
There are 12 species of Galapagos tortoise, one for each of the major islands in the archipelago, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Another species (Chelonoidis abingdonii, also known as Pinta) died out in 2012, when the last male tortoise, Lonesome George, died.