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July 12, 2013
Between April and June of 2013, 187 packages of beach sand and corals were found during luggage checks at Galapagos’ Baltra airport. The Ministry of the Environment (MAE), working with park rangers from the Galapagos National Park (DPNG), together with the Baltra airport administration (Ecogal) were able to detect possession of protected materials using x-ray machines. Gaspar Masaquiza is one of three rangers whose daily luggage inspections ensure that visitors do not remove sand, corals, shells, or stones. In past, airport personnel would uncover one or two packages per day, but in recent months the figure has risen to an average of three to five per day. Using an x-ray machine, park rangers are able to detect suspicious objects and ask that the luggage is opened for inspection. If the contents prove illegal, park rangers inform travelers that it is illegal to remove any products which are part of the natural environment.
Although some people indicate that they were unaware that carrying these kinds of “souvenirs” from the islands is illegal, park rangers and personal from Ecogal have discovered packages wrapped in diapers, aluminum foil, and carbon paper in an effort to avoid x-ray detection.
Periodically, the seized materials are returned to their natural environment. Recent records indicate that visitors attempted to remove black and white corals, volcanic stones, shells, crabs, white, black, and pink sand, and Sally Lightfoot crab shells. Because the seizures involve both Ecuadorian nationals and foreigners, the DNPG reminds all passengers traveling through Galapagos that they cannot remove any natural materials from the islands. The Park Directorate also seeks the help of naturalist guides and tour operators to remind tourists about these restrictions. The best memories of a visit to Galapagos are captured in photographs.