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Twenty-nine endangered Galapagos tortoises rescued in Peru

At least 29 endangered Galapagos tortoises from Ecuador were rescued in northern Peru as they were about to be taken to Europe to be sold, the National Forest and Wildlife Service (Serfor) said in a news release on April 19. The black footed tortoises, which had been wrapped in tape, were found inside a box on board a bus travelling on the Piura - Sullana highway, according to Serfor's news release.

Members of a decentralised Serfor office in Piura said the poor conditions and stress during transportation, had led to the death of two specimens. Wildlife officers and policemen are working to pinpoint illicit markets and crack down on the lucrative trade in wild animals, which uses Peru as a route towards the black market in Europe.

The bus where the tortoises were found was travelling from the northern coastal city of Tumbes to capital Lima. Both the driver and transport company he works for are being investigated, Serfor's news release stated. Giant tortoises, which can reach some 500 pounds (225 kg) are among the famous creatures of the Galapagos Islands closely studied by 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin.

The Galapagos Islands are one of only two locales inhabited by giant tortoises, along with the Indian Ocean's Aldabra Atoll. Galapagos tortoises graze on grasses, leaves, cactus and fruit but can survive up to a year without food or water.The tortoises were immediately taken to the Cecilia Margarita zoo In Piura, where they received medical attention from vets. Serfor will coordinate with authorities of Ecuador's Ministry of the Environment, the repatriation of the 27 tortoises. Illegal wildlife trade is one of the organised crime activities that raises the most money, according to the World Economic Forum.

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