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15 near-extinct giant tortoises found slaughtered in Galapagos Islands

Posted October 19, 2021 12:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2021 12:22 p.m. EDT

Park rangers with the Galápagos National Park Directorate discovered the remains of 15 giant tortoises slaughtered on southern Isabela Island.

The Galápagos Conservancy called the discovery "shocking," as the giant tortoises are already fighting to survive extinction.

"The disturbing news follows on another report this year of 185 small tortoises found on March 29, 2021, in a suitcase at the Baltra Island airport being trafficked to the mainland for sale," wrote the Galápagos Conservancy in a statement.

Officials said the Galápagos Islands, famous both for their rare giant tortoises and for Charles Darwin's research on the theory of evolution, are becoming increasingly ensnared in the global wildlife trade. That trade could take an enormous toll on the giant tortoises, the largest living species of tortoise in the world, weighing up to 919 pounds. In the wild, they may live longer than a century.

Officials said 123 juvenile tortoises were stolen from the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island in 2018.

"While only a few local residents still kill tortoises, local demand for tortoise meat and other tortoise products has escalated. With few tortoises remaining on the primary volcano affected – Sierra Negra, which once hosted the largest of all populations in Galápagos – this ongoing killing poses a major threat to the species’ continued existence," wrote officials in a statement.

In June of 2020, WRAL reported on 15 giant tortoises being released in the Galapagos Islands after spending decades in captivity.

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