Took More Than 100 Years For Tortoises To Return To Galapagos

During the 1700s, stow-away hungry rats from a docking ship led to the depletion of the tortoise population on the Galapagos Island of Pinzon, Ecuador. These rats were successful in wiping out an entire species for over one-hundred years.

Rodents like tortoises eggs . . .

By ravaging all the tortoise eggs, this momentous action disrupted the natural order of the island’s ecosystem. Birth rates became so unstable, our testudinal friends became an endangered species. They made it impossible for most of the baby tortoises to survive on the island.

Conservation intervention

Conservation efforts began in the 1960's when a restoration project was initiated to save the remaining egg specimens on the island. Biologists took the lead by collecting about 100 remaining eggs left and hatching them on another island.

After a five-year period, they were sent back to Pinzon when these adults were able to fend themselves. However, the remaining rats on the island were still able to eat up many of the eggs laid by these emigrating adults.

Rats killed off . . .

This remarkable development is testament to the success of conservation efforts over the last century. The vermin were finally wiped out by air-dropped rat poison in 2012. The egg-eating pest rats were eradicated shortly there after.

Tortoises return . . .

“I’m amazed that the tortoises gave us the opportunity to make up for our mistakes after so long. The incredible eradication of rats on this island, done by the park service and others, has created the opportunity for the tortoises to breed for the first time,” researcher James Gibbs told The Dodo

"We did a survey [in December] to see if it was working for the tortoises, and we found 10 new hatchlings. This is the first time they've bred in the wild in more than a century."

While ten tortoises might hardly seem like a baby boom, Gibbs says "it's just the tip of the iceberg. . . given projection probabilities, I'm sure there were a hundred times more hatchlings out there,"  added Gibbs.

Gibbs and his research team located approximately 300 tortoises in their investigation of the island, which he projects really means that currently there's 500 tortoises in total.

Hooray for the good guys in saving these tortoises and hopefully removing them from the endangered status list in the years to come.


Primary Source: The Dodo