Ecuador fears endangered Galapagos tortoises were hunted and slaughtered

The deaths of four giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands are being investigated amid suspicions that they were hunted and slaughtered.

The inquiry was announced by Ecuador's state attorney general's office, which says it is trying to establish the facts of what happened to the creatures.

It has been illegal to kill the endangered animals for almost a century, but there have been reports that several have been hunted in the past 20 years.

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A unit specialising in crimes against the environment has begun proceedings and is taking statements from park officials, the state attorney general's office said on Twitter.

There are 13 living species of Galapagos tortoise and they have one of the longest lifespans in the animal kingdom, averaging more than 100 years.

The oldest on record lived to be 175.

It is not known which species of tortoise the four dead belonged to.