Appearance Of Baby Tortoises On Pinzón Raises Hopes Of Comeback.

The discovery of baby tortoises on Pinzón, in the Galápagos Islands, for the first time in over 150 years has raised hopes that a critically endangered tortoise subspecies is set to make a recovery. Chelonoidis nigra duncanensis, the Pinzón tortoise, was brought to the brink of extinction by predation, habitat destruction and competition with invasive species. After decades of conservation efforts to restore these giant saddleback tortoises to their natural habitat it seems that these sizeable reptiles may finally have a fighting chance to repopulate the island now that certain obstacles have been swept aside.

Captive breeding programme.

Due to the risks posed to Pinzón tortoise eggs and hatchlings on the island by predators, the worst culprit being rats, a captive breeding and rearing programme was introduced by the Galápagos National Park to allow for eggs to hatch and babies to mature past their most vulnerable years without being eaten. Baby tortoises kept at the Fausto Llerena Captive Breeding and Rearing at the island of Santa Cruz were reared in a predator-free environment faithful to that of Pinzón until they reached the age of four after which they were reintroduced to their native island. Male and female tortoises of reproductive age were also kept at the centre for breeding purposes.

Island reintroduction.

By the time Pinzón became part of the Galápagos National Park in 1959 most of the tortoises living in Pinzón had inhabited the island before the introduction of rats that had arrived with humans on ships. These giant tortoises, having survived the visits of whalers and pirates to the island, found themselves incapable of producing future generations because of rodents feasting on their young. The captive breeding and rearing program allowed conservationists to bolster tortoise numbers on Pinzón with youngsters born and raised in captivity while efforts were made to mark and track the existing population and check on their progress.
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