Recovering an endangered species is no easy task. Years and many failed attempts must run their course until one day, life finally finds a way to succeed against the odds. When this happens, the event is worth celebrating! And it just so happens that, just a few days ago, the Galapagos Islands welcomed 6 new Floreana giant tortoises born in captivity! The Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise wants to join in on the celebration by taking a moment to admire the resilience of life and appreciate the fact that, when we humans set our minds to protecting the world we live in, we can actually make great things happen. Enjoy this happy news and learn more about these amazing creatures that you will certainly encounter throughout your Galapagos exploration!
The Reproduction in Captivity Program (initiated by the Galapagos National Park and the NGO Galapagos Conservancy) managed to bear fruit when, on the 30th of November, the first 6 eggs that partially belonged to the lineage of Chelonoidis niger finally hatched. The program officially began when 20 reproductive adults (12 females, 8 males) were moved from Wolf Volcano (Isabela Island) to the Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre back in November 2015. This species contained partial genetic code from the Floreana original Chelonoidis niger, believed to have gone extinct some 150 years ago. 124 eggs and two years later, the species might be able to begin repopulating Floreana Island within the coming years.
Park ranger Christian Sevilla, in charge of the Islands Ecosystem Conservancy and Restoration Department at Breeding Centre Fausto Llerena, started collecting eggs as early as July. The process has to be carefully controlled. After weighing them and measuring them, the eggs are taken to the incubators where they are separated into two different temperatures and kept for four months. With giant tortoises, it is the temperature during the incubation period that determines the sex of the hatchlings. Three-thirds of the eggs are kept at a 29.5 °C (85.1 °F) in hopes of getting as many females as possible, while the remaining third is kept at 28 °C (82.4 °F) to obtain males.
Very few places in the world allow visitors to be as close to wildlife as the Galapagos Islands. As soon as you hop off the plane, frigate birds, blue-footed boobies and sea lions await (just to name a few Galapagos BIG15 species). Coming to the Galapagos Islands means getting in touch with life as it’s supposed to be. All efforts by the Galapagos National Park, NGOs, tourism agencies, locals, and visitors go a long way in helping with the recovery of this fragile ecosystem, and Breeding Programs such as this one help restore some of the island’s most endangered species and environments. Get the most out of this magical place during your journey aboard your Galapagos expedition vessel, travel back in time to the origins of life, and spread the word about this amazing archipelago! The more we appreciate it, the more we will fight to protect it! And rejoice with the presence of new Floreana giant tortoises born in captivity.