Thursday, September 8, 2011

Galapagos Giant Tortoises

One of the most iconic animals in the Galapagos is the threatened Galapagos Giant Tortoise.  The Giant tortoises are amazing species that can weigh over 800 pounds measure up to 6 feet long and live well over 100 years old.  My guide at the Charles Darwin Research Center said tortoises have found the key to a long life- lots of sun, rest, healthy eating and 3-hour plus sex.  There are actually many species of Galapagos tortoises with different species having adapted to the unique terrain on each island.  Many of the island's tortoises are now in captive breeding programs to increase their numbers and then are released back into the wild.  There are wild communities that can still be visited in certain areas like Urbina Bay on Isabela and the highlands of Santa Cruz.  The breeding program has been pretty successful and has helped the population rebound from endangered status to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.  Other steps are also being taken across the islands to protect the natural habitat of the island's unique species like the recent eradication of goats, which were eating all the vegetation on the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island.  Seeing tortoises is a must-do for any trip to the Galapagos and if you can make a trip to the highlands or Urbina Bay I would really recommend it, but if not you can also get up close and personal with them at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Isabela and there you can also meet the famous Lonesome George- the last tortoise of his species! 

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