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Ecuador to German Iguana Smuggler: “Ich Don’t Think So!”

Date: August 27, 2012

In what is being hailed by our friends at Sea Shepard Conservation Society (SSCS) as a major victory for the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands and champions of environmental protection there, a judge has denied bail for Dirk Bender, who stands accused of attempting to smuggle four land iguanas out of the islands in his luggage on July 8th.  The 31-year-old German national was stopped by authorities at the airport as he attempted to board his departing flight, and the animals were recovered from his luggage unharmed. Incredibly, Bender was arrested in Fiji just seven months ago and forced to pay a $15,000 fine for attempting to smuggle a pregnant iguana out of that country. 

Trafficking in land iguanas is a serious offense under Ecuadorian law because they are classified as an endangered species, and Bender could face up to four years in jail if convicted.  SSCS laments the historic failure of the Ecuadorian judiciary to convict those accused of environmental crimes in the Galapagos, noting that this decision sets an exciting precedent. The ruling means that Bender will be forced to remain in jail in Ecuador to await his trial, and those involved in conservation on the islands hope that this decision marks a turning point in the way environmental crimes are handled and offenders punished. SSCS stated yesterday “We have been monitoring and providing legal arguments for this case and are delighted that the judicial system has sent a clear message that from now on, the Galapagos will act strongly against environmental crimes.”

Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Matt Kareus

Matt is the Executive Director of IGTOA.


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