July 20, 2024

THE GIANT TORTOISES OF THE GALAPAGOS

Breeding Centers

 A Guest Article by Karen Helland

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t r 25 yr old

The Galapagos Islands are known  for many things but perhaps mostly for their vast variety of interesting and exotic animals. Now,  I don’t know about you, but when I think “Galapagos Islands” I think of the Giant Tortoise.    Around the time when Darwin was exploring and charting the region there were over 200,000 Giant Tortoises inhabiting the area.  Unfortunately, that number has dropped dramatically as the islands became more well known. Increasing human use of the tortoise for meat and oil had a major impact as did the introduction of non-indigenous animals (think goats). By the 1970‘s the tortoise population was down to just 3,000 animals. In 1965 Ecuador developed a breeding program to help reestablish the Giant Tortoise population. And they’ve made some progress. Today there are over 19,000 animals in the Galapagos.

Ecuador has now established tortoise breeding centers on three different islands of the Galapagos.   During my recent journey to the islands I visited the center on Isabela  Island—Tortoise Breeding Center “Arnaldo Turpiza”.  It is quite a place.  Take a look.

 

t r 2mo old & egg

Even Giant Tortoises start out small. Above, the center director is holding a tortoise egg next to a 2 month old infant tortoise. The female in captivity matures in 25 years.  In the wild maturity happens at 40 years.  She capable of laying up to 16 eggs. Notice the markings on the egg? Each egg is numbered and codified.  Once hatched, each  tortoise has a PIT (Permanent Implanted Transponder) tag attached before being released into the wild. They want to keep an eye on these dudes! The transponder chip allows the breeding programs to track the movements of the tortoises as they move about.

 

t r 3yr olds

A group of three year olds.  They made it through the terrible twos! Still,  they have a long way to go.  The average life span for a Giant Tortoise is over 100 years!

 

 

T r 5 6 yr olds

These tortoises  are almost 6 years old.  At this age they are about ready to leave the center and be  expatriated to one of the seven islands of the Galapagos that have habitat for tortoises. Experience has shown that they have a better chance of survival in the wild if they are 6 years old and weigh at least 7 pounds before being released to the wild.

 

t r 20-30 yr old

They keep on growing— These guys are 25 to 30 years old.

 

 

t r 50 +3

This Giant Tortoise  is close to 50 years old.  The center keeps some of these older, mature tortoises for breeding as well as for  tourism, observation and study.

 

The Giant Tortoise  Breeding Center on Isabela Island offers fascinating insights into the the repopulation efforts in the Galapagos and also gives visitors a unique opportunity to see these awesome creatures up close and personal.  The Center has hundreds of tortoises in various enclosures growing, maturing, and getting ready for their release in the wild.  Ecuador is working hard to reestablish the tortoise population. They have made a good start with their breeding centers but it will be a long time before they even begin to approach the pre-Darwin population levels.  As you can imagine, tortoise breeding it is a very slow process.   Meanwhile, if you happen to visit the Galapagos, be sure to check out the breeding centers for Giant Tortoises.

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My thanks to Karen for another great guest article and for sharing her Galapagos Adventures here on Travel And Photo Today.

t r karen & turtle

 

Here’s a photo of Karen with one of her well shelled friends in the Galapagos.

 

 

 

 

 

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Karen’s Brief Bio –

I am a retired elementary school library/media specialist who loves to travel.  I travel to visit my two sons, their wives and four grandchildren.  I have traveled throughout the United States.  I have traveled to every continent but two, with the greatest amount being in Europe.
I am originally from Connecticut and I have lived in Rhode Island and Wimbledon, England.   For the last 32 years I have resided in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Enjoy The Adventure!
Dr.B, The Photo Trekker
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