123 Baby Tortoises Stolen From Galapagos Islands
More than 100 giant tortoises have been stolen from a breeding facility in the Galapagos Islands.
The tortoises were stolen from the Arnaldo Center Tupiza breeding facility, located on Isabela Island, according to Ecuador's environment ministry.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the theft of the animals -- which were of the Chelonoidis vicina and Chelonoidis guntheri species -- from the centre on Isla Isabela, the ministry said.
The baby tortoises were stolen on September 27, but only confirmed by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment in a statement more than a week later.
"Currently, this fact is in the process of preliminary investigation, by the Attorney General of the Galapagos, for which all information on the progress and the process is reserved to avoid obstruction of the work of the competent authorities," it said.
"This State Portfolio has made every effort to investigate this fact in depth and we will remain vigilant until we find the alleged perpetrators."
Galapagos tortoises are a huge tourist attraction for Ecuador and the country has harsh penalties for environmental crimes. The thieves face up to 10 years in prison if caught.
There are 12 species of Galapagos tortoise, one for each of the major islands in the archipelago, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Another species (Chelonoidis abingdonii, also known as Pinta) died out in 2012, when the last male tortoise, Lonesome George, died.