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Baby Tortoises Show Up In The Galapagos Islands For The First Time In 100 Years!

For the first time in more than a century, giant tortoises have bred successfully on the Galapagos island of Pinzón. The announcement raises hope for preserving some of the diversity that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Although Pinzón is one of the smaller islands in the Galapagos, it is located at the center of the archipelago and its ecology has suffered from many of the same problems seen elsewhere. In the mid-19th century, black rats hitched a ride on sailing ships and proceeded to take over the island. Even a pack of rats are not up to taking on a fully grown giant tortoise, but they proceeded to eat every egg and hatching laid on the island.

Any shorter-lived species would have been wiped out, but the tortoises live so long that adults have just kept plodding on, waiting for something to save the species. In the 1960s, conservationists collected all the unhatched eggs they could find on the island and incubated and raised them on another island. Five years later, the tortoises—now large enough to resist the rats—were returned to Pinzón.

This bought the tortoises another few decades, but clearly was not a long-term solution. So in 2012, Galapagos National Park rangers dropped poison baits to lure rats on the island, provided treats they hoped would distract the tortoises and crossed their fingers. The rats took the bait and this year Nature has reported that ten newly hatched tortoises have been sighted.

Professor James Gibbs of the State University of New York was one of those who observed the glad tidings. He did so as part of a survey that found 300 adult tortoises, leading to an estimate that 500 survive on the island.

The salvation of any species is exciting in these dark times, but the Pinzón operation has some extra features. The Dodo describes the event as a first-of-its-kind operation, with potential to be applied to many other isolated island ecosystems.

Moreover, the observation of Mr. Lawson, a vice-governor in Darwin’s day, that he could tell which island a tortoise came from by the shape of its shell was a key moment in the development of Darwin’s thinking. Pinzón, being a relatively dry island, is inhabited by saddleback tortoises of the species Chelonoidis duncanensis. Amazingly, these are one of the smaller Galapagos species.

Across the islands, tortoise populations plunged from several hundred thousand to around 3,000 in the 1970s before rebounding to around 15,000 today. Hopefully, those numbers will still soon start to rise again.

Source: http://www.iflscience.com


20 Responses to “Baby Tortoises Show Up In The Galapagos Islands For The First Time In 100 Years!”

  1. Why are you guys using pictures of turtles on an article about tortoises…..

    Posted by Sally | October 25, 2016, 2:38 pm
  2. Jeff:
    The photos with the article about tortoises show them at the waters edge and, apparently, entering the sea. During my visit to the Galapagos and the Darwin tortoise breeding center, I was told that tortoises are land animals, whereas turtles are aquatic. The photos are confusing, or the author of the excerpt is uninformed. What say you?

    Chuck Peery
    chuckpeery@ Hotmail.com

    Posted by Chuck Peery | October 27, 2016, 10:19 pm
    • I was thinking the same thing. The adult turtle in the photo appears to be a sea turtle and not a tortoise. The feet are different in that one has flippers and the other legs more like are miniature elephant. Strange they would choose this photo but it’s a good story non the less.

      Posted by jeni | November 5, 2016, 11:51 pm
  3. Why are all the pictures in this article sea turtles, though?

    Posted by Cyn | October 27, 2016, 11:55 pm
  4. Possibly an error in translation but the article is about ‘tortoise’ (land dwelling) and the photos are of ‘turtle’ (marine). Bit awkward!

    Posted by Rachel | October 28, 2016, 6:10 am
  5. Yay! But, the pictures are all of sea turtles, not tortoises.

    Posted by Taylor | October 28, 2016, 7:29 am
  6. Why is a post concerning giant tortoises illustrated by photos of sea turtles?

    Posted by Dave Hoffman | October 28, 2016, 4:19 pm
  7. All the images on this article show SEA TURTLES, not tortoises.

    So, which type of shelled reptile infant has been found?

    Posted by Peter Bessey | October 28, 2016, 4:39 pm
  8. Tortoises – really. look like a sea turtle to me.

    Posted by HowL | October 28, 2016, 5:01 pm
  9. these are not tortoises

    Posted by Molly | October 28, 2016, 5:39 pm
  10. Informative article but the umages are completely out of place. If pinzon tortoise images are not available at least use from other island but not sea turtles images. This can create a misunderstanding for people that don’t know about the giant tortoise of the Galápagos Islands.

    Posted by Greg | October 29, 2016, 11:07 pm
  11. I have the same observation and complaint…this article is illustrated with photos of the wrong species-turtle not tortoise…. if there are 10 tortoises….please show them to us!!

    Posted by Laurel Paulson-Pierce | October 31, 2016, 4:25 am
  12. If the article was translated from Spanish it is evident that the person translating either didn’t know his subject matter well enough or didn’t know Spanish well enough! The word ‘tortuga’ in Spanish is used for both ‘tortoise’ and ‘turtle’.

    Posted by Henaff | November 1, 2016, 9:58 am
  13. I’ve had the chance to contact the author of the article, but so far no reply. In the meanwhile I have deleted the photos.

    Thank all of you for noting.

    Posted by empec | November 1, 2016, 6:16 pm
  14. I know. I saw it too. I thought my friend had finally gone off the ecological deep end.

    Posted by SHOCK | November 5, 2016, 5:01 am

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