January 26, 2018
Park rangers from the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) returned 163 tortoises of the species Chelonoidis guntheri to their home in Cinco Cerros, in the southwest portion of Isabela Island — about 30 miles from Puerto Villamil. On the beach at the site, each park ranger placed nine tortoises on his shoulders to start the 14-kilometer hike over lava fields, and then ascended through a forest of manzanillo, hawthorns, and cat’s claw (a native plant), which separated them from the repatriation site more than 300 feet above sea level.
Prior to being repatriated, the tortoises were given health exams, had their shells marked with special ink, and were given a microchip with data recorded in the breeding program of the Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan Breeding Center on Isabela Island. The 163 tortoises are part of a population of 1,000 individuals reproduced at the Breeding Center to date, which are repatriated to their place of origin once they reach eight years of age as part of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI) — a long-term collaborative effort between the GNPD and Galapagos Conservancy.
The hard work of the rangers during the repatriation will contribute to the protection of this species, as tortoise hatchlings in this area are negatively impacted by introduced species.
“These activities always encourage our work and are the reason for every park ranger’s effort to take care of this heritage. Each year, we return hundreds of tortoises of the different species that are bred in captivity to their natural home,” said Walter Bustos, GNPD Director.
Content based on a GNPD press release, translated with their permission. Photo © GNPD.