Four critically endangered Galápagos giant tortoises are believed to have been killed and eaten, despite the fact that hunting the animals for their meat has been illegal for almost 90 years.
The remains of the four tortoises that were recently killed were found in the Galápagos National Park on Isabela Island, Ecuador, last Monday (August 29).
The Ecuadorian authorities have launched an investigation into the crime, which follows a similar incident in September last year.
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In that case 15 giant tortoises were found dead on the same island, the largest in the Galápagos group.
Photos of the animals’ empty shells and bloody remains were widely shared on social media and caused outrage across the world.
A statement from Galápagos Conservancy, an American charity that works to conserve the archipelago’s unique ecological heritage, said: “Evidence from the investigation showed that the reptiles had likely been hunted for consumption.”
In March 2021, 185 tiny tortoise hatchlings were found crammed inside a suitcase during a routine customs inspection at Seymour airport in the Galapagos.
10 of them had already died by the time they were discovered.
Capturing or removing Galápagos giant tortoises from the islands (including their eggs) has been banned since 1970.
Tortoise meat was once considered a delicacy, but killing the increasingly endangered giant tortoise was banned in 1933, with a three-year sentence for anyone caught killing the huge, slow-moving animals.
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Galápagos giant tortoises have no natural predators and can live for more than 100 years.
They became famous as a result of Charles Darwin’s voyage to the Galápagos in 1835, which helped him formulate his theory of evolution.
The crew of Darwin’s ship, The Beagle, took 30 live tortoises from the islands when they left, eating most of them on the way home.
There are currently believed to be around 15,000 of the giant tortoises in the world, compared to 200,000 in the 19th Century.
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