The Guardia Civil's Seprona environmental and animal protection division has arrested three people in connection with the illegal trafficking of endangered turtle and tortoise species. The operation, named Coahuila after one of the tortoises in the investigation, discovered the largest illegal breeding centre to ever have been found in Europe. This was at a finca in Llucmajor, which had a close association with a shop for exotic fauna in Barcelona.
More than 1,100 specimens related to 62 individual species were seized during the operation; fourteen of these species are considered to be critically endangered. Among them were several box turtles, similar to tortoises but in fact a type of pond turtle. Also seized were some 200 females during their laying season and more than 750 eggs.
Two of the people arrested are German. The third is Spanish. Three others are under investigation - two more Germans and one Spaniard. Those arrested are being charged with offences against wildlife, the smuggling of protected species and money laundering.
The investigation started way back in February last year. Guardia Civil officers at Palma's Son Sant Joan Airport came across a shipment of several of the coahuila species. These were seized because of a lack of necessary documentation. Those responsible for the shipment were two Germans, living at the finca in Llucmajor. When the finca was raided, the hatchery for both land and water species was found.
The shop in Barcelona was used to launder the specimens bred in Majorca. The shop owner's home was raided. A rural property, it had poorly maintained pools and tanks with protected species.
It has emerged that the ringleader, one of the Germans, was reported for similar offences in 2009 but then disappeared. He was arrested in June and is currently at liberty on charges. The case has now become public as the Guardia Civil are continuing investigations said to have international connections.