Charles Darwin Research Station, Highlands, Santa Cruz Island

Aug 29, 2017 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Santa Cruz Island, home of the largest giant tortoises that inhabit this enchanted archipelago, we are ready to learn about their behavior. Before disembarking as we got to the dock we could see several brown pelicans on the mangrove forest and marine iguanas swimming.

Several Darwin’s finches moved from tree to tree, maybe looking for a mate or maybe for food, the cacti, and other plants of different sizes made an interesting walkway on our path to see the gentle giants.

The Charles Darwin Research Station and the National Park Service have the Breeding Centre, as partners have managed to save the giant tortoises of the Galapagos from going extinct. By saving the tortoises, they have saved almost all reptiles. The program started back in the 1960’s with the Española sub specie. Numbers where going down due to the presence of introduce goats and donkeys to the island. The mammals will forage the vegetation leaving the tortoises not only without food but also without shelter.

After years of research and hard work, the programs have been a 100% success; today over 2,000 young tortoises have being repatriated to their island of origin and are now reproducing in the wild without human intervention. This is the reason why the Galapagos National Park Service, together with the Charles Darwin Foundation are within the most respected conservation institutions in the world.

Tortoises in the wild kept our groups excited and busy, it was amazing to see them in their natural habitat and photographers took the pictures they have come to the islands. A bit of drizzle made the scene very dramatic, walking with this incredible friendly creatures made as feel transported in time, maybe a hundred years ago, when the tortoises roamed the islands by themselves.

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About the Author

Ximena Cordova


Ximena was born in Cuenca, the third largest city of Ecuador. Located in the Andes Mountains, Cuenca is known as the cultural capital of Ecuador and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site because of its many historical buildings. Ximena gained experience with American culture as an exchange student in Santa Barbara, CA, and later, while living and working at the United Nations in New York City for four and a half years.

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