Giant Tortoises Will Soon Be Back on Sante Fe After a 150 Year Absence
2015 has been a good year so far for Galapagos giant tortoises. In January we reported that a team of researchers had discovered 10 baby saddelback tortoises on Pinzon, offering definitive proof that tortoises are being hatched and reared on the island for the first time in over a century. Now, in a few short weeks, the island of Sante Fe will also see the triumphant return of 207 giant tortoises to its shores. It will be the first time that tortoises have lived on the island since they died out there more than 150 years ago.
Because Sante Fe’s original species of tortoise became extinct in the 1800s, the new tortoises are actually from the island of Espanola. They are are genetically and morphologically similar to their now deceased cousins and will fulfill a similar function in the island’s ecosystem.
The reintroduction is part of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, a joint effort by the non-profit Galapagos Conservancy and the Galapagos National Park Directorate, which aims to rebuild Galapagos tortoise populations to their historical numbers. The reintroduced tortoises, which range in age from four to 10, were bred and raised in captivity at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz. Forty of the animals will be fitted with GPS tracking devices so scientists can study their movements.
Sante Fe’s tortoises disappeared from the island largely because of damage done by feral goats, which were eradicated from the island in the early 1970s.