After growing up in captivity, thirty-six endangered giant San Cristóbal tortoises (Chelonoidis chatamensis) have finally been released in the Galapagos.
There were once fifteen species of giant tortoises endemic to the Galapagos Islands. In the late 1800s, whalers and other pirates brought with them a series of invasive pests that ultimately outnumbered turtles by feeding on their eggs, among other things. Results: the numbers fell and several species became extinct.
Since the 1960s, numerous conservation efforts have been developed to help restore populations of nine of the eleven surviving species. There are three turtle centers in the Galapagos, all managed by the Galapagos National Park Authority.
The first is the Fausto Llerena Turtle Center in Santa Cru, created in 1965 to save the turtle population on the island of Pinzón. The second is the Arnaldo Tupiza turtle center on Isabela Island. It was inaugurated in 1995 in response to a major fire declared in the south of Isabela which threatened the habitat of the turtles. Finally, the San Cristóbal Turtle Center, created in 2004, aims to restore the numbers of the species Chelonoidis chatamensis in the wild.
Thanks to the efforts of these three structures, it is estimated today that about 6,700 the number of giant tortoises roaming free in the Galapagos.
36 turtles released into the wild
Recently, members of this third organization released thirty-six turtles giants in the Galapagos National Park. You will find him in the northeast of the island of San Cristóbal.
New arrivals have between six and eight years old. They are therefore very young and weigh only five kilograms. In adulthood, some may reach 250 kilograms on the scale.
“Raising these young turtles in captivity before releasing them into the wild can quickly rebuild the population.“, written the Park management. “The mortality of these reptiles in the wild is indeed highest during the first two years, often due to the lack of food or water. Newborns are also easy prey for predators. Once a turtle reaches the age of five, it is more likely to survive to maturity.“.
Remember also that another species, Chelonoidis hoodensis, was also saved from extinction thanks to the exemplary efforts of a single specimen named Diego.
As part of a conservation program put in place by the San Diego Zoo, the male has indeed produced hundreds of young in recent decades. He was finally sent home last year, in the Galapagos Islands, nearly eighty years after being kidnapped.