A Mexican man thought to be linked to an international ring of wildlife traffickers was arrested in Ecuador on Monday 7th September for attempting to smuggle 11 iguanas from the Galapagos Islands.
It is thought that he was trying to smuggle the reptiles to Uganda and has a previous record for arrests after attempting to smuggle reptiles from other countries including New Zealand.
The authorities seized the sack that the animals were being kept in in the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island and were shocked to find 9 baby marine iguanas and two juvenile land iguanas – both species that are endemic to Galapagos, classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are protected by CITES (the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Fortunately, the animals have been assessed and will be re-released into the wild.
This is not the first time that this has happened to the iguanas of Galapagos. In July 2012, a German tourist, Dirk Bender was caught trying to smuggle four juvenile land iguanas through Baltra airport. He was successfully prosecuted and sentenced to the maximum penalty of four years in prison.
The trafficking of wildlife is all too common around the world and this often illegal trade is incredibly lucrative in some areas. It is responsible for the major decline of many rare species, many of which don’t make it through the stress of smuggling. We are, however, making progress in cracking down on this trade through the aid of new technology such as DNA analysis, remote sensing and even smartphone apps. More information can be found on anti-trafficking project on the TRAFFIC website.
Watch a short video on the story by BBC News here.