German convicted of smuggling Galapagos iguanas

January 6, 2013
A marine iguana at Floreana island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, in May 9, 2009.

A court in Ecuador has convicted a German tourist of trying to smuggle four threatened iguanas out of the Galapagos Islands in his luggage, authorities said Sunday.

Dirk Bender was convicted "of having altered the local ecosystem of the archipelago," park authorities said.

The has requested the maximum four-year jail term for Bender, who should be sentenced in the coming days.

Bender was arrested at the airport on Baltra Island on July 8 after park officials noticed him carrying a suspicious package, which was found to contain four lizards wrapped in canvas.

The hidden reptiles were Galapagos Land Iguanas (conolophus subcristatus), which the International Union for Conservation of Nature ranks as "vulnerable" on its Red List of Threatened Species.

In 1976, wild dogs wiped out a colony of around 500 of the iguanas on the island of Santa Cruz. The national park rescued around 60 survivors and launched a captive breeding program to try to revive the species.

The yellowish lizards can grow to be over a meter (three feet) long, with males weighing up to 13 kilograms (30 pounds).

The iguanas have been seen to raise themselves off the ground to allow finches to eat ticks off their bellies—the same Galapagos finches that inspired when he visited the islands in the 19th century.

The , situated about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off Ecuador's coast, gained fame when Darwin visited in 1835 to conduct research that led to his revolutionary theories on evolution.

The archipelago has been a since 1978 for the rich plant and animal life found both on land and in the surrounding sea.

Explore further: Galapagos volcano erupts, could threaten wildlife

Related Stories

Galapagos dropped from UNESCO endangered list

July 29, 2010

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee said Wednesday it has removed Ecuador's Galapagos Islands from its list of endangered sites, due to Quito's protective efforts in the Pacific archipelago.

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.