Charles Darwin Research Station, Highlands, Santa Cruz Island

May 07, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Several Darwin’s finches moved from tree to tree, perhaps looking for a mate or maybe for food. Opuntia cacti 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 come together to form the Breeding Center, and in doing so, the two 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. This is why the Galapagos National Park Service, together with the Charles Darwin Foundation are among the most respected conservation institutions in the world.

The program started back in the 1960s with the Española sub-species. The numbers were going down due to the presence of introduced goats and donkeys to the Islands, which foraged the vegetation to a massive extent, leaving the tortoises not only without food but also without shelter. After years of research and hard work, the programs have been a 100 percent success, and today over 3,000 young tortoises have been repatriated to their island of origin and are now reproducing in the wild without human intervention.

In the afternoon, sightings of tortoises in the wild kept our groups excited and busy! It was amazing to see them in their natural habitat; photographers took the pictures they have come to the islands for. Walking with these incredible friendly creatures made us feel as if we had been transported back in time, maybe a hundred years back, 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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