Rangers have discovered the decomposing remains of 15 Galapagos giant tortoises on a remote part of Isabela Island.
The dead tortoises were found by rangers from the Galapagos National Park Directorate while on patrol in the remote Sierra Negra Volcano area on southern Isabela Island.
The Galapagos Conservancy reported the shocking discovery in a statement on Wednesday, 13th October.
The Conservancy said that most of the tortoises were killed at an undetermined time while two are believed to have been killed very recently.
Galapagos tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra) are the largest living species of tortoise in the world weighing up to an astonishing 417 kilogrammes (919 lbs) and with potential lifespan of over 100 years.
Galapagos tortoises are listed as vulnerable on the Red List of Endangered Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The islands are famous primarily thanks to these tortoises and due to Charles Darwin’s use of the island to develop his theories about evolution.
Darwin developed many of his ideas relating to evolution based on the fauna and flora he studied on the volcanic archipelago, made up of 18 main islands and 3 smaller islands.
The discovery of the dead tortoises follows the discovery of 185 small tortoises, 10 of which had died, in a suitcase at the Baltra Island airport being trafficked to the mainland for sale on 29th March.
The Conservancy emphasised in its statement that the tortoises are under constant threat of being killed and illegally exported which puts huge amounts of pressure on a species that has spent decades fighting an uphill battle to survive.
“The highly imperilled state of tortoises today on southern Isabela Island, caused by the historic destruction of tortoise populations by whalers and early colonists, has been difficult to reverse because poaching continues.”
“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 Galapagos, this ongoing killing poses a major threat to the species’ continued existence.”
The Conservancy has spent the last decade providing critical resources and assistance to local authorities who are trying to protect tortoises from local hunters.
According to the Conservancy, its work with the Galapagos National Park Directorate and local residents has been successful despite incidents such as the two tragic discoveries made this year.
These discoveries drive home the fact that tortoises must be protected from being killed and trafficked.
The Galapagos Conservancy is planning to increase its role in supporting the Galapagos National Park Directorate as they carry out an investigation into who killed the 15 tortoises.
They hope that by holding the guilty parties accountable others will think twice before killing members of the threatened species.
The Galapagos Conservancy has helped protect the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of Galapagos by supporting research, conservation, outreach, and building a sustainable society since 1968.
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Story By: Peter Barker, Sub-Editor: Lee Bullen, Agency: Newsflash
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