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Baby Turtles found on Galapagos

 
 
Reply Thu 22 Jan, 2015 02:15 pm
After more than a century without a single baby tortoise sighting on the Galapagos island of Pinzón, a small group of the tiny, shelled youngsters have been spotted again.

The recent births are helping to pull the critically endangered animals back from the brink of extinction after they were nearly laid to waste as a result of human activity.

"I'm amazed that the tortoises gave us the opportunity to make up for our mistakes after so long," researcher James Gibbs who was among the first to see the hatchlings in December, told The Dodo.

(James Gibbs)

When sailors first landed on Pinzón Island in the mid-18th century, they inadvertently triggered an environmental catastrophe that has taken generations to correct. Rats aboard those early vessels quickly gained a foothold in the fragile ecosystem, feasting on the eggs and hatchlings of the island's tortoises who, up until then, had few natural predators.

The rats were so devastating, in fact, that over the following decades not a single tortoise offspring survived the onslaught — setting the species on the path to extinction.

But just as human activity nearly spelled doom for the imperiled animals, it has also helped to save them.

(Wikimedia)

In the 1960s, with only 100 tortoises remaining, conservationists launched a concerted effort to preserve the species. The few unhatched eggs that could be found were carefully collected and incubated on another island, where they were hatched and raised for five years — until they were large enough not to be attacked by rats — before being released back on Pinzón. But the rodent problem still plagued any eggs that remained on the island.

Then, in 2012, biologists used helicopters to distribute poison designed to attract only rats. It was a first-of-its-kind operation, but it worked; Pinzón was recently declared rat-free.

"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," says Gibbs.

(James Gibbs)

"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 10 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."

Gibbs and his team spotted 300 tortoises in all on the trip, which he says suggests that there are now more than 500 estimated to be currently living on the island.


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Type: Discussion • Score: 9 • Views: 1,901 • Replies: 9
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jcboy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Jan, 2015 09:03 am
@edgarblythe,
There are some breeders in the US of Galapagos Tortoises; I actually looked into it once, thought of getting a baby. They sell for 25 grand! Shocked
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Jan, 2015 09:09 am
@jcboy,
I could buy a nice Toyota for that kind of money.
jcboy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Jan, 2015 09:13 am
@edgarblythe,
A baby Galapagos would be the size of a Toyota in about 10 to 15 years Razz
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Jan, 2015 09:36 am
@jcboy,
But not half as fast.
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Jan, 2015 03:43 am
@edgarblythe,
The OP is very heartening news. Thanks for bring it here.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Sun 25 Jan, 2015 11:17 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:
Then, in 2012, biologists used helicopters to distribute poison designed to attract only rats. It was a first-of-its-kind operation, but it worked; Pinzón was recently declared rat-free.
No sympathy for the rats I guess.

I'm all in favor of saving rare tortoises, but I'm going to add an observation just for the sake of irony... we exterminated the rats because their successful overpopulation of the island disrupted the environment enough to endanger a local species, while on a global scale, we humans are the ones doing exactly the same thing to countless other rare species. I'm not saying we should exterminate ourselves (maybe just be a bit more thoughtful about our impact), but the irony of the situation doesn't escape me.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Jan, 2015 11:23 am
@rosborne979,
Good point.
0 Replies
 
jcboy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Jan, 2015 01:28 pm
@rosborne979,
My Sulcata tortoises were rare at one time then they were shipped into the US and they breed quite frequently. Now there are so many of them they are hard to adopt out. We had to send one to a tortoise farm just recently, he was getting too aggressive.

Now we just have the one, he’s six years old and weighs close to 60lbs. When I purchased him he was the size of this little guy!

0 Replies
 
Poseidon384
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2015 10:51 pm
@rosborne979,
Well, you see, humans in some places grew up feeling like it was ok to hunt these endangered animals and never ceased to believe that. What we did to the rats was a good thing to do. Humans belong in the Americas because we have lived here so long and adapted. Same with other continents. The rats were there and they didnt belong there. We dont either. But we dont bring harm to these peaceful giants, the rats did. They ruined their chances of becoming a part of the ecosystem. You make a great point though.
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