The K-9 unit of the Ecuadorian Environmental Police recently prevented an illegal exportation of two marine iguanas, an emblematic species of the Galapagos archipelago that has been protected since 1959.
On September 30, 2010, the Police were conducting a routine inspection of cargo and luggage at the Galapagos airport in Baltra, Ecuador. Willy, one of the dogs of the K-9 unit, identified a cardboard box containing two marine iguanas. The box had been abandoned by its owner. The iguanas were hidden in a compartment of the box. Both iguanas were improperly stored, but fortunately, they were still alive. The body of a deceased baby sea turtle was also found in the box. After the police inspection, the marine iguanas were delivered to the authorities of the Galapagos National Park.
According to the police report, witnesses only provided a general description of the suspected owner of the box. Since the box had been abandoned, the Police were unable to locate the suspect. An investigation has been opened to that end.
While the perpetrator has not yet been identified, this case shows that the mere presence of the K-9 unit at the Galapagos airport was effectively able to frustrate and prevent a wildlife crime. According to Galapagos special legislation and the Penal Code of Ecuador, the non-authorized collection and/or mobilization of wildlife, including its exportation from the islands, is a penal infraction sanctioned with imprisonment.
This operation came a day after another important finding of six shark fins stored in the ceiling of a house in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Sharks are also protected species in Galapagos. The shark fins were found as the result of an inspection conducted by another K-9 unit. This case is also currently under investigation to determine judicial responsibilities.
The K-9 unit of the Ecuadorian Environmental Police is supported by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It is a pioneer unit in Ecuador, and in the region. In the past few years since its inception, the K-9 unit has proven to be instrumental in the fight against wildlife crimes in Galapagos. The dogs are trained to detect wildlife, including shark fins and sea cucumbers, and to prevent their illegal exportation. The K-9 unit operates the three inhabited islands of Galapagos under the command of specialized police officers.
Click here for more information on the K-9 unit.