From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galapagos
Jan 17, 2013 - National Geographic Endeavour
Santa Cruz Island
With an overcast morning looking to keep us cool, we arrived at the tortoise rearing center operated by the Galapagos National Park. Originally started, and still today maintained with the expertise of the Charles Darwin Research Station, this is where tortoises from various islands are kept in captivity for breeding purposes. Depending on the island of origin, some eggs are brought in from afar, others obtained from corrals holding males and females for this very reason.
The end result is a great number of young tortoises that are released annually to their islands of origin; many cleaned up of introduced species, and when left to their own devices are continuing to propagate their species fairly well without outside interference! As a consequence of all these decades of effort, many races from different islands have been brought back from the brink of extinction to relatively healthy numbers. More is better, and so the program continues, and today we saw some of these remarkable individuals ambling around their enclosures; dome-backed, saddle-backed, small and huge.
Later we saw them in the wild….in the transition zone of Santa Cruz Island. After lunch in the highlands, we took the buses down a dirt road for a couple of miles to an area that had mosses and lichens dripping from the branches of the endemic Galapagos guava, Psidium galapaeium…and tortoises wandering in the woods. Some were settled happily (apparently) in a pond filled with a red water fern of Azolla microphya. The white-cheeked pintail ducks were found in the pond as well, quite content to sit for photos!
All in all, the day was filled with new experiences, and to round it up, the Executive Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation came on board in the evening and spoke of some of the successes and challenges they deal with here on the islands. We also heard from Cesar Penaherrera, a researcher who tags sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In order to protect, we must know if they stay nearby, or wander the world…all of this information is needed to protect the islands and beyond.
Local musicians finished the night out; good music, good friends, good memories.