Baby Tortoises Found On Galapagos Island For The First Time In Over 100 Years
This is the first time in over a century that even a single baby tortoise was sighted on the Galapagos island of Pinzón.
After years of human activity that has devastated the population of tortoises, the recent birth of these little shelled babies is a huge step in the right direction.
We are now seeing critically endangered animals coming back from the brink of extinction.
"I'm amazed that the tortoises gave us the opportunity to make up for our mistakes after so long," says researcher James Gibbs who was among the first to see the hatchlings in December, told The Dodo.
Photo credit: James Gibbs
Sailors first landed on the island in the mid 18th century. At that time, they unknowingly introduced foreign species such as rats to the natural environment.
The rats that snuck aboard the ship during travel ended up getting off on the island paradise and decimated the tortoise population. The eggs were one of the main sources of food for the rats.
There are few other natural predators on the island, so the rat population flourished. Rats began to multiply and this nearly eradicated the island's tortoise population.
It got so bad that not a single tortoise offspring was able to survive the disaster decades after the rats were first introduced.
This environmental catastrophe has taken generations to correct.
But now that we've seen the mistake that previous humans have created for this majestic animal, and humans have been able to help save them.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Conservationists were able to launch a joint effort to save the species with only 100 tortoises remaining in the 1960s.
They searched the island to find the last few remaining unhatched eggs and incubated them on another island.
The eggs were hatched and raised on that island for nearly five years, until they were large enough to not be attacked by the rats before they were introduced back to the island.
However, the rodents still devoured any eggs that were remaining on the island.
It wasn't until 2012 that biologist were able to develop and distribute a poison using helicopters that was designed to only attract rats.
"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.
Photo credit: 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."
And while 10 might not seem like a the biggest 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."
In all, Gibbs and his team spotted 300 tortoises on their trip, and suggests that there are now more than 500 estimated to be currently living on the island.
Great job team!
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