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March 10, 2017
According to the Galapagos National Park Directorate, 81 giant tortoises have hatched since November from the 2016 nesting season at the Arnaldo Tupiza Giant Tortoise Center on Isabela Island. The tortoise hatchlings are from two species: Chelonoidis guntheri and Chelonoidis vicina — from the two southern volcanoes of Isabela Island, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul.
Galapagos giant tortoises nest between June and December each year. These two species lay between 8 and 16 eggs per nest. The incubation period lasts from 90 to 120 days. Newly-hatched tortoises are transferred to a dark box that replicates the few weeks to a month that the hatchlings remain in their underground nest in the wild, during which time any remaining yolk sac is completely absorbed, before digging an exit hole and emerging. After 30 days in the dark box, the young tortoises are transferred to outdoor corrals, where they are regularly monitored.
Tortoises spend approximately five years at the Breeding Center, after which they are ready to be returned to their natural habitat. This gives them a jump-start, as the highest mortality of tortoises in the wild is in their first few years. The Isabela Center currently has 702 tortoises, including 65 reproductive adults. Thanks to this program managed by the Park at their three tortoise centers (Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristóbal), nearly 7,000 tortoises have been repatriated to their island of origin across the Archipelago.