Image courtesy of mikebaird via flickr
In what can only be described as an utterly barbaric act, 53 sea lions were found dead earlier this week in the Galapagos Islands, their heads apparently bashed in. When they were initially discovered on Pinta, they were already in a late stage of decomposition; as Reuters UK's Alonso Soto and AFP are reporting, Ecuadoran authorities have started an investigation to determine the perpetrator(s) of these brutal killings.
Though it remains a possibility, the authorities have practically ruled out the involvement of traffickers, who typically kill the sea lions to salvage their organs; aside from their head wounds, the animals were left untouched. Winnowing down a list of possible culprits will be extremely difficult as tourism on the islands has flourished over the past few years; indeed, following calls for stricter controls by the UNESCO, Ecuador is now seriously weighing proposals to limit the amount of tourists flooding the Galapagos.UNESCO placed the Galapagos on its list of World Heritage sites, citing the threats posed by invasive species, tourism, immigration and illegal organ trafficking. Luis Suarez, the local head of Conservation International, believes additional satellite control and better police intel could help regulate the traffickers' activities; he also agrees that more should be done to stem the influx of tourists. Another tragic example of tourism and development gone awry in a pristine setting.