A couple of weeks ago, Peru’s National Forest and Wildlife Service seized 29 endangered Galapagos tortoises from a bus, before being shipped to Europe. Peru falls in the international route to Europe for wild animal trade. The tortoises came from Ecuador and most smugglers use Peru as a transit before the animals reach Europe. Some of the tortoises were taken in by a zoo for treatment, while the rest were sent back to Ecuador.
A little about Galapagos tortoises
Galapagos tortoises are some of the most endangered animals in the world, and they are known for their black feet. In the wild, these animals live up to a 100 years, and in captivity, there are records of tortoises living for almost 175 years.
These giant tortoises can weigh up to 417 kilograms and are only found in Galapagos and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean. The tortoises soak in the sun for an hour or two, and actively forage for 8-9 hours per day. In short, they live an active life, while taking short periods of rest in between. They feed on grasses, cactuses, melons, fruits, etc. They are herbivores and get all the water they need from the food they eat. This is one of the reasons why they can survive without water for as long as 6 months.
Why are they endangered?
There were around 250,000 tortoises in the 16th century, and today one can find only about 19,000. Tortoise smuggling cartels pose a threat to these creatures existence. Galapagos tortoises have no animal predators and only humans are the cause for their endangerment. Unfortunately, they have often been used as a delicacy, which has led their numbers to fall. Though the adult tortoises do not have predators, the eggs and hatchlings are often preyed on by Galapagos Hawks. Other threats include non-native mammals, destruction of habitat, pollution and late sexual maturity.
However, it should be noted that conservation efforts have paid off. In the 1970s, there were only 3,000 of these tortoises and now the numbers have steadily increased to 19,000. Galapagos Islands have undertaken to conserve these tortoises so that their numbers do not decline any further. Peruvian authorities have displayed exemplary tact when it comes to identifying tortoises that are being smuggled through the country. This incident was an example of that behavior.