The Galapagos are synonymous with the huge giant tortoises
that are found on most islands.
They have been harvested by Buccaneers who loaded their
holds with 10’s of thousands of these creatures, storing them upside down
as they would survive for up to a year without food or water, providing fresh
meat for the crew. They have been used as fresh meat by the Whalers that
came and decimated seal and whale stocks around the islands and more recently
threatened by feral cats, goats and rats introduced by man. In some cases they
have become extinct and on one island a single male survived, Lonesome George,
who is now held in captivity in the Darwin Research centre.
There is an extensive conservation program led by the
National Parks authority with international support to rebuild numbers and we
visited the breeding centre on San Cristobel to see these
incredible creatures that can live to 150 years old and the
work of the conservation teams and to see Genesis, the first Tortoise bred in
the centre. They now have a success rate of over 60%
far higher than would happen in the wild. On San Cristobel
the Tortoises roamed across much of the island but after years of encroachment
they are protected from outside pressures by the Park Wardens but their habitat
and range in the breeding centre is identical to their small natural range in
the north of the island.