29 Galapagos Tortoises Rescued from Wildlife Trafficking in Peru

April 19, 2017

Rescued Galapagos Tortoises. Credit: SERFOR


Earlier this week, Peruvian law enforcement officials rescued 29 Galapagos tortoises at a toll stop that were being transported on a bus traveling south on a highway from northern Peru. Galapagos tortoises, famously connected to Charles Darwin's work, are only found in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador and are a highly threatened species. They are considered to be the largest tortoises in the world and can live to be over 100 years old. They are afforded the greatest protections possible under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning that they cannot be commercially traded except under exceptional circumstances.

The officers found the turtles wrapped in tape and packed in a box. While two died during transport, it is hoped that the other 27 tortoises can be successfully returned to the wild. Peru will cooperate with Ecuadorian authorities to make this happen.

Peruvian law enforcement officials release the tortoises from the plastic wrapping that was used to attempt their transport. Credit: SERFOR

The driver and co-pilot of the bus, and the named company under which they were using to transport the tortoises are under investigation. According to the Peruvian National Police, they believe that this activity might be connected to an international mafia that trafficks wildlife to Europe for sale in black markets.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through our South America and Combating Wildlife Trafficking Programs has been proud to support our partners in Peru to combat wildlife trafficking through increased coordination, law enforcement, data collection, and public awareness.

Spanish language versions of this story are available from our partners on the websites of Wildlife Conservation Society Peru and SERFOR.