Environmental authorities in Ecuador revealed on Sunday that staff at an airport on the Galapagos Islands found 185 tortoises, 10 of which were dead, in a suitcase that was heading for Ecuador's mainland.
"In #Baltra airport 185 newborn tortoises were detected in a suitcase that was being transported to mainland Ecuador," posted Ecuador's Environmental Ministry.
Officials added that the discovery was made "during a routine inspection," and that police were investigating the incident.
According to a statement from the Ecological Airport of Galapagos, "the tortoises were no more than 3 months old," adding that their shells were too young to be able to determine which island they were taken from.
Trafficking fauna off the Galapagos Islands is a crime punishable by between one and three years in prison.
The islands are a protected wildlife area and home to unique species of flora and fauna.
They lie 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) west of Ecuador.
On Twitter, Environment Minister Marcelo Mata blasted "these crimes against Ecuadoreans' wild fauna and natural heritage."
The Galapagos Islands' star attraction is their giant tortoises, which arrived on the volcanic islands between three and four million years ago.
It is believed that ocean currents deposited them on the islands after which they developed into 15 separate species, three of which are extinct.
The archipelago was made famous by British geologist and naturalist Charles Darwin's observations on evolution after visiting the islands.
— Times / AFP