You read well, for over a 100 years, we haven’t seen a single little tortoise on the Galapagos Island of Pinzón.
After years of human treason almost leading the species to an end, the recent birth of those beautiful tortoises makes us believe that there is a chance to take this endangered animal back from the extinction trail.
“I’m amazed that the tortoises gave us the opportunity to make up for our mistakes after so long,” said researcher James Gibbs who was one of the first to attend the hatching, back in December.
When the sailors first discovered the Island in the mid 18th century, they brought with them foreign species that didn’t belong in the ecosystem of the island, for example, rats.
Those rodents who managed to find a way in the ships, also found their way out on that island and that’ when they began to reduce the population on Tortoise by eating their eggs as one of their main sources of food.
Since they had almost no natural predators, they multiplied very quickly as the population of tortoise was facing elimination almost as quickly.
It got really hard for tortoise offspring to survive the terrible decades that followed the introduction of the rats on the Island. In fact, not even one of them survived those years.
As you can understand, it took years for this environmental disaster to be corrected. However, we’ve learned from our fellow’s ancestors’ mistakes and the damages they’ve done to this beautiful animal, so now we know how to help their survival.
In the 1960’s there were only 100 tortoises remaining on the island, so the conservationists brought their efforts together to save the species.
They literally skimmed the island to find the last few unhatched eggs and protected them in some incubators on another island.
Those tortoises were then born and raised on that island and when they were big enough not to be eaten by rats, around five years old, they were brought back to their native island, even if the rats were still eating every single one of their eggs.
It was only in 2012 that biologists introduced and spread over the island a poison created only to target the 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,” said Gibbs.
Some tests were made in December to see if that solution worked and they could find 10 new hatchlings. It’s the first time in centuries that the tortoise can breed in the nature.
10 might not seem like a big baby boom, said researcher Gibbs, but it’s at least the tip of the iceberg; “Given projection probabilities, I’m sure there were a hundred times more hatchlings out there.”
Altogether, Gibbs and his group could spot around 300 tortoises on their excursion and they propose that there are most probably more than 500 of them now living on the Galapagos Island.
They did a great job, it gives us faith in the humanity!