Area: 18 km2 or 7 mi2 Maximum Altitude: 458 m or 1502 ft Human population: 0
Pinzón Island, named for the brothers Pinzón, captains of the Pinta and the Niña on Columbus’ voyage to the New World, sits at the center of the archipelago. Surrounded by deep waters, it remains isolated from all other islands. Dominated by rocks and spiny vegetation, Pinzón is also known as Devil’s Island. With a higher elevation than most of the other arid islands, Pinzón experiences garúa, the heavy mists that occur on the higher islands during the dry season. Because of this, many epiphytes are found on Pinzón, but unlike the higher islands, they tend to occur on Opuntia cactus and other xerophytic vegetation. Common vertebrate species on Pinzón include Darwin’s finches, Galapagos Doves, Galapagos Hawks, Galapagos snakes, and its own species of lava lizard and giant tortoise. Introduced species include Black Rats, the Little Fire Ant, and several plant species. The tortoises of Pinzón were decimated by whalers and later scientific collecting expeditions. The California Academy of Sciences collected some 80 tortoises off Pinzón in 1905. During World War II two airplanes out of the US Base at Baltra crashed on Pinzón and the remains can still be found.
With no land or marine visitor sites, Pinzón is one of the more seldom visited islands. The deep waters surrounding the island are fished by local fishermen. The Pinzón tortoise project, which began in 1965, continues today.
CONSERVATION HISTORY AND CHALLENGES
With the establishment of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station in 1959, a review of the tortoise populations was initiated. On Pinzón there were some 100-200 giant tortoises, all old adults. No young were found. Black rats, introduced to the island in the late 1800s, had apparently consumed all eggs and/or hatchlings for most of the 20th century. In 1965 the first eggs were brought from the natural tortoise nests on Pinzón and the rearing program began. Since the first 20 tortoises were repatriated to Pinzón in 1970, over 550 young tortoises have been released there. After a rat eradication attempt in 1988-89, hatchling tortoises were once again found on the island. In addition, both lava lizards and Galapagos Doves showed rapid and notable population increases. However, the eradication program was ultimately unsuccessful and with the repopulation of Pinzón by Black Rats, natural recruitment into the tortoise population halted once again and other native populations have returned to pre-“eradication” levels.
Marine Site: No Name Rock
To the south of Pinzón is No Name Rock, where visitors can scuba dive around the circumference of the islet. Hammerhead and Galapagos Sharks can be seen here, and sometimes other pelagic species, including rays and sea turtles.
Conservation Site: Tortoise Repatriation Program
While Black Rats remain on Pinzón, tortoise eggs and hatchlings will continue to be collected from the natural nests and taken to the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz. Reared to approximately four-years-old, when they reach a size at which they are considered “rat-proof,” the tortoises are then repatriated to Pinzón in an effort to restore the tortoise population to its pristine condition.
Conservation Site: Rat Eradication Project
An international workshop on rodent eradication, held in Galapagos in 2007, resulted in the development of a rodent eradication plan for Pinzón and Rábida. This plan is expected to be carried out within the next couple of years. A successful eradication should result in the enhancement of many of the native populations of Pinzón and the removal of the Pinzón tortoise from the rearing program.
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