Throughout our first annual review of the Tortoise Centers on San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Santa Cruz, and the tortoise corral near Asilo de la Paz on Floreana, we were accompanied by several Galapagos National Park rangers who have dedicated years, some of them decades, to Galapagos conservation. I can’t emphasize enough how truly passionate these folks are about the work they do, caring for giant tortoises and helping to restore tortoise populations throughout the archipelago. Along with writing about the work of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, I wanted to honor these individuals by featuring them in our blog — those from San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Floreana are presented in Part 1, while Part 2 will focus on those from Santa Cruz. Some of the Park rangers also participated in the Tortoise Workshop in 2012 where we developed the blueprints for the Tortoise Initiative. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these incredible individuals in this important program.
San Cristóbal Tortoise Center
Name: Efrain García
From: Manta, Ecuador
Joined the Park: 2001
Favorite Tasks: Working with the tortoises.
Efrain moved to Galapagos in 1988 and began working with the Park through the Auricario program to clear invasive vegetation around El Junco (a freshwater lake and Park visitor site in the highlands of San Cristóbal) in 2001. He started at the Tortoise Center several years later, and throughout our recent visit demonstrated great pride in his work caring for both the adult animals as well as the juveniles.
Name: David Rodríguez
From: El Progreso, San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos
Joined the Park: 1977
Favorite Tasks: Everything, but especially working with the tortoises.
Born and raised in the highlands of San Cristóbal, David began his work for the Galapagos National Park in the Santa Cruz office in 1977, where he worked mostly in the field throughout the archipelago until 1990. He then returned to El Progreso and began work with the San Cristóbal team. When the Tortoise Center opened in 2003, he started working there and has continued to this day.
Name: Jeffreys Málaga
From: Esmeraldas, Ecuador
Joined the Park: 2000
Favorite Tasks: Working with plants and doing field work.
Jeffreys first visited Galapagos in 1976 at age 11. He then moved to San Cristóbal when he was 15 and has lived there ever since. He participated in the Tortoise Workshop in 2012; one of the two representatives of the San Cristóbal Tortoise Center. That same year he was named “Guardaparque del Año,” or Park Warden of the Year.
Isabela Tortoise Center
Name: Fernando Franco
From: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Joined the Park: 1994
Favorite Tasks: Everything and anything to do with tortoises.
Fernando came to Galapagos with his family in 1976 and has lived on Isabela Island ever since. In his first year as a Park ranger he did a variety of things, but in 1995 began work at the newly-operational Tortoise Center in Villamil and has continued there ever since. Fernando participated in the 2012 Tortoise Workshop, one of two representatives from Isabela.
Name: Clever García
From: Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island, Galapagos
Joined the Park: 2010
Favorite Tasks: Working with plants; also vertebrates and invertebrates.
A native of Isabela Island, Clever worked for the Charles Darwin Research Station for nine years with invertebrates prior to joining the Park in 2010, where he has primarily worked in the tree nursery. He has been working at the Tortoise Center for about four months.
Floreana Tortoise Corral
Name: Wilma Pérez
From: Pangua, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador
Joined the Park: 2000
Favorite Tasks: Working in the field and with the tortoises, as well as planting, caring for and harvesting the Otoy crop that the tortoises are fed.
Wilma came to Galapagos in 1995 at age 16 to work on Claudio Cruz’s farm in the highlands of Floreana, where she remained for two years before joining the Wittmer farm (where her husband worked) for the next five years. She began working with captive tortoises on Floreana for the Park in 2000 — feeding, cleaning the corral, and monitoring for any problems. She even began growing the Otoy crops needed for feeding the tortoises.
Read Part 2 in the series dedicated to the Galapagos National Park rangers, featuring Fausto Llerena (Lonesome George’s long-time caretaker) and several other individuals from the Santa Cruz Tortoise Center.