Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Back from the brink

Image copyright 1999 by Joseph Dougherty/

While the Pinta Island subspecies of Galapagos tortoise went extinct with the death of Lonesome George, conservationists have had much better luck with the Espanola subspecies (IMAGE ABOVE). The animals had been reduced to a mere 14 after goats were introduced to the island in the 1970s and denuded it of vegetation. The conservationists have bred a population of 1,000 which has been reintroduced to Espanola, where the tortoises will be able to sustain themselves. Herpetologist Linda Cayot, a science advisor to the Galapagos Conservancy group points out that their decline actually began centuries earlier: "The tortoises were hunted by buccaneers, whalers and other sea goers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, They collected them live, stacked them in their holds, and had fresh meat on their long voyages. Tortoises can live up to a year without food or water, so a natural source of fresh meat."

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