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Protect the Tortoises of the Galápagos!

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

Tortoises are being killed off at an alarming rate to supply the illegal meat trade. Take a stand for these rare animals!


As many as 2,000 unique species make their home in the Galápagos Islands. These animals cannot be found anywhere else, and are growing increasingly rare.

Among those animals are several species of giant tortoises, herbivorous reptiles that can weigh around 600 pounds and live up to 120 years1.

These animals are actually the namesake for all the islands. Galápagos means "tortoise" in Spanish2.

Two hundred years ago, researchers estimate as many as 200,000 Galápagos giant tortoises roamed the islands. Due to poaching and other human interference, their populations have plummeted3.

Ecuadorian officials more recently discovered the carcasses of four endangered giant tortoises, slaughtered illegally for their meat4.

Less than a year before that, authorities discovered the decaying corpses of 15 other giant tortoises, also murdered for the illegal meat trade5.

Fourteen species of giant Galápagos tortoises are currently threatened, with authorities listing them as vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, and potentially already extinct6.

Killing these important creatures has been illegal for 89 years, since 1933. Sadly, that hasn't stopped people from hunting and butchering these beloved animals for their meat7. The illegal wildlife meat trade is running rampant from the Galápagos, to Madagascar, to Southeastern Asia8.

Moreover, investigations show that meat of protected turtle species is sold in several markets in India. Such "wet markets" present an acute health hazard and need to be looked into urgently in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic9.

We can't allow the illegal slaughter of tortoises drive these species to extinction and torment the communities of the Galápagos.

Law enforcement services in Ecuador are provided by the national police. The police force is part of the Ministry of Interior. National police and border control have real-time access to INTERPOL databases so they can detect if suspects or travelers are wanted by INTERPOL or traveling on a stolen passport10.

The United States Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador has also trained 10 new prosecutors; two who have participated in environmental crime management issues and eight in the fight against wildlife trafficking11.

These agencies and prosecutors must focus on working closely together in the coming years if we are to prevent more tortoise species from disappearing forever.

Help us ask Ecuadorian authorities to crack down on the illegal wildlife meat trade by finding and prosecuting the poachers responsible! Sign the petition and take action!

More on this issue:

  1. Natural Habitat Adventures (2022), "Giant Tortoise Facts | Galapagos Islands Wildlife Guide."
  2. National Geographic Society (2022), "Galápagos tortoises."
  3. Galapagos Safari Camp (2021), "The Galapagos Giant Tortoise."
  4. "Lauren Lewis, World Animal News (6 September 2022), Four Endangered Giant Tortoises In The Galápagos Islands Have Been Killed; Ecuadorian Authorities Are Searching For Suspects."
  5. Peter Barker, ABC 13 (18 October 2021) ,"15 giant Galápagos tortoises found slaughtered."
  6. Jaymi Heimbuch, Treehugger (13 August 2020), "11 Critically Endangered Turtle Species."
  7. Cruz Márquez, David A. Wiedenfeld, Sandra Landázuri, Juan Chávez, Cambridge University Press (17 October 2007), "Human-caused and natural mortality of giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands during 1995-2004."
  8. John Cannon, Mongabay (31 October 2018), "Thousands of radiated tortoises seized from traffickers in Madagascar."
  9. Prerna Singh Bindra, RoundGlass (10 May 2022), "Crackdown on Illegal Wildlife Trade Could Prevent the Next Pandemic."
  10. Interpol, "How INTERPOL supports Ecuador to tackle international crime.."
  11. Isabel Alarcón, El Comercio (22 April 2021), "Ecuador recibe ayuda de EE.UU. en la lucha contra el tráfico de especies."
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The Petition:

To the President and government of Ecuador,

Of the many rare and unique species found on the Galápagos Islands, there are few as iconic as the tortoise, the very namesake of these islands.

The fact is, if action is not taken soon, many species of Galápagos tortoises will disappear forever.

Fourteen species of giant Galápagos tortoises are currently threatened, with authorities listing them as vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, and potentially already extinct.

Killing tortoises has been illegal for 89 years, since 1933, but that hasn't stopped people from hunting and butchering these beloved animals for their meat. The illegal wildlife meat trade is now running rampant from the Galápagos, to Madagascar, to Southeastern Asia.

Law enforcement services in Ecuador are provided by the national police. The police force is part of the Ministry of Interior. National police and border control have real-time access to INTERPOL databases so they can detect if suspects or travelers are wanted by INTERPOL or traveling on a stolen passport.

The United States Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador has also trained 10 new prosecutors; two who have participated in environmental crime management issues and eight in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

These agencies must focus on working closely together in the coming years if we are to prevent more tortoise species from disappearing forever.

The future of these important species depends on your leadership. I implore you to focus your national law enforcement and wildlife agency efforts on combating the growing threat of poaching by investigating crimes and prosecuting those found guilty.

Sincerely,

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Signatures: