Everyone who goes to Galapagos has one particular creature on the top of their must-see list - the giant tortoise. Native only to the Galapagos Islands, this species has unfortunately declined in numbers since discovery in the 16th century, with no babies born in the wild appearing on the island in over 100 years - until now!
The Galapagos family of tortoises (sometimes referred to as Darwin’s Tortoises) are the definitive species of the remote island’s assortment of unique animal life. Often gigantic in size and able to live for close to 200 years, it’s easy to understand why these gentle giants capture the imagination of so many.
Unfortunately, when European scientists sailed to the Islands in the mid-18th century to collect the first strands of data that laid the foundation for evolutionary science today, their ships brought with them a common nuisance – rats. Rats, as most people know, breed quickly and adapt easily to a vast array of habitats. As such things often go, they wasted no time settling into their new island home and breeding at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately for the tortoises, the rats turned to tortoise eggs and hatchlings as a primary source of food. Light and small, they were easy to steal from open nesting on the shoreline and fragile enough for the rats to consume. In an alarmingly short amount of time, the infancy of the Galapagos tortoise had been completely eradicated from its native shore, with not a single hatchling surviving.
While conservationists over the last several decades have worked tirelessly to incubate and foster eggs in a protected environment, a biological war was waged on the invasive rat species in Galapagos. In 2012, scientists dispersed a poison around the island of Pinzón that attracts and kills only rats. Remarkably, this unusual experiment was successful! The island has been restored to its original rat-free status.
The result? 10 new hatchlings bravely stretching their tiny green legs on the sands of Pinzón this winter. Hopefully the start of a new generation of the famous Galapagos tortoise!
If you’re ready to book your trip to the ecological marvel of the Galapagos Islands and perhaps spot some baby tortoises yourself, be sure to give us a call! We have departures coming up over the next year or we can build a custom trip for you and yours to experience the Galapagos in exactly the way you’ve always imagined.
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