Lessons Learned

From Barb and Sink Manning

15 Sea Lions Killed and Mutilated
(AP) Wednesday July 18 7:44 PM ET

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) - The bodies of 15 sea lions have been found in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands with their teeth and sexual organs extracted, presumably for sale in Asian black markets as aphrodisiacs, authorities said Wednesday.

The carcasses were discovered Sunday after Galapagos National Park officials received an anonymous tip that some 25 mutilated sea lions had been left on the southern shore of San Cristobal, the easternmost island in the remote Pacific archipelago.

The bodies of four females and 11 males were found, authorities said. All of the animals had fractured skulls and were missing teeth, and the males had had their sexual organs removed.

``We believe poachers mutilated the animals,'' said Juan Cobos, head of the Charles Darwin Research Station's office on San Cristobal. ``They extracted their genitals, which are in demand in Asian countries as supposed aphrodisiacs.'' Cobos said the animals were killed Saturday night.

Funded by the nonprofit Charles Darwin Foundation, the research station is the main promoter of conservation and research on the islands.

Investigators believe the animals were dumped in the ocean after they were mutilated and washed up on shore.

Police said they found what they believed was the poachers' abandoned camp site, littered with soft drink bottles and leftover food.

Hunting is prohibited and fishing is limited in the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles west of the Ecuadorean mainland.

The islands are known for their variety of rare and exotic birds, fish and sea lions. The unique characteristics of the islands' animals were made famous by Charles Darwin, the 19th century naturalist.

The islands' sea lions have no natural predators on land and generally do not fear humans.