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  • People release of a group of captive-reared juvenile giant tortoises in Santa Fe Island, part of Ecuador

    People release of a group of captive-reared juvenile giant tortoises in Santa Fe Island, part of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. | Photo: EFE

Ecuador Galapagos Islands are home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.

Police in neighboring Peru seized 29 turtles believed to have been smuggled out of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands and an investigation has been opened in the case, Galapagos National Park said.

Officials are working to bring the turtles back from Peru, the national park, an Environment Ministry agency, said in a statement.

The turtles are small and "it is not possible to determine the exact species or gender," the national park said.

Scientists plan to perform DNA analysis to determine the species and island the turtles' may have been stolen from, Galapagos National Park said.

Wildlife trafficking is the third most profitable illegal activity in the world, trailing only drug and arms trafficking, the Environment Ministry said in a 2015 report.

Meanwhile, 190 captive-reared juvenile giant tortoises were released in the Galapagos Islands as part of a project to restore the animals to Santa Fe Island, Galapagos National Park said Thursday.

The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles west of the coast of continental Ecuador and were declared a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978.

Some 95 percent of the territory's more than 3,000 square miles constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.


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