Arrest in Galapagos Islands wildlife trafficking | Environment | All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 08.09.2015

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Arrest in Galapagos Islands wildlife trafficking

A Mexican citizen was arrested while trying to smuggle 11 iguanas from the Galapagos Islands to Uganda. Wildlife trafficking is the third most profitable illegal activity, after the smuggling of drugs and weapons.

A Mexican citizen, identified only as "Gustavo T.," was arrested September 6, 2015, by Ecuadorian environmental police while trying to leave the country with nine juvenile marine iguanas and two juvenile land iguanas, seized from the Galapagos Islands.

The smuggler is an alleged member of a trafficking network that has been under investigation by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The man apparently captured the iguanas in the wild, then tried to smuggle them off the island packed in cardboard boxes in his backpack. He had intended to ship them to Uganda with the help of other foreigners pretending to be tourists in the islands. According to officials, each iguana could fetch up to $25,000 on the black market.

"Gustavo T." was apprehended on Santa Cruz Island, one of the islands of the Galapagos archipelago. He had already spent 18 months in prison for trafficking reptiles in New Zealand.

The Ecuadorian Environment Ministry stated that wildlife trafficking is the third-most-profitable illegal activity in the world, after drugs and weapons traffic.

The Galapagos Islands are listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, and have been a special target for wildlife traffickers, due to their unique collection of isolated wildlife.

clg/sad (EFE, AP)