January 5, 2018
The restoration of Pinzón Island continues following the successful rat eradication campaign in December 2012, carried out by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), in collaboration with Island Conservation and The Raptor Center. In addition to the exciting news of natural recruitment of juvenile tortoises into the population, a potentially new endemic snail species has recently been discovered.
During a tortoise monitoring trip in 2015, several hatchling tortoises were discovered, the first in well over 100 years. This was the first evidence of ecological recovery following the eradication.
More recently, Dr. Christine Parent of the University of Idaho and her technical team discovered a potentially new endemic species of land snail, which they are in the process of describing.
The various field teams from the GNPD and collaborating institutions have also documented increases in the populations of lava lizards, Galapagos snakes, landbirds such as the endemic Galapagos dove, and others.
Before the eradication campaign, all eggs and/or hatchlings of the Pinzón tortoise, Chelonoidis duncanensis, were preyed on by black rats introduced to the island in the late 1800s. The result was no natural recruitment of juvenile tortoises into the population for more than 100 years. The status of the Pinzón tortoise population resulted in the start of the Santa Cruz Tortoise Center in 1965, when the first eggs of Pinzón tortoises were transported there to complete their incubation. They were then reared in captivity for later release on Pinzón once they reached a rat-proof size.
This program, initiated by the Charles Darwin Research Station and now run by the Galapagos National Park Directorate, has returned 1,007 young tortoises to the island — with many of them now of sufficient age to be reproducing adults.
“This is one of the most important efforts that has taken place in Galapagos. After decades of work, today we see the results. We have an island undergoing a rapid recovery process,” stated Walter Bustos, director of the Galapagos National Park.
Galapagos Conservancy celebrates these results with the GNPD, GC’s main collaborator in the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative. We continue to work with them to rebuild the Pinzón tortoise population, which includes continuing the captive rearing program to help increase the population more rapidly than will occur naturally. GC has also supported various aspects of the recovery and monitoring through short-term grants to both Island Conservation and The Raptor Center.