From Santa Cruz.
The most recognized symbol of the Galápagos is the animal that shares its name with the island chain: the Galápagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra). These amazing animals can weigh hundreds of pounds and live over 100 years. On Santa Cruz, captive breeding programs are helping to save the various subspecies that are found on different islands.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol
From Santa Cruz.
This Galápagos tortoise has found a good hiding place. We only saw a few of these in the wild; of all the islands’ animals, the giant tortoises may have been impacted the most by humans. Galápagos tortoises are the largest tortoise species and can get up to around 500 lbs. There are no large mammals native to the islands, so tortoises end up being the dominant herbivores, even eating Opuntia cactus pads.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed
From Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island.
This is one of the famous Galápagos tortoises (Chelonoidis spp.). There are many living in the wild on the islands, but this one happens to be at the research station in the island’s most populous town.
The tortoise is one of the famous examples of evolution on the islands–that is, tortoises have slight genetic variations on different islands. Some of these species (or subspecies–opinions differ on how to classify them) are dying out, due to historical exploitation and the tortoises’ naturally slow growth rate. Therefore, some animals are kept in captivity primarily to manage populations, generally by trying to breed the most genetically similar animals together, such as in the case of Lonesome George.
Research on these gentle giants is still ongoing at the Charles Darwin Research Station. One recent success story is the Española tortoise (C. hoodensis), which has been repatriated following a breeding program, and is now reproducing successfully in the wild again.