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The eleven park rangers hiked for two and a half hours to transport 118 juvenile tortoises (Chelonoidis ephippium) to their release site on Pinzón Island. The Ministry of the Environment, via the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), carried out this action as part of the ecosystem restoration of Pinzón.
These were the first tortoises repatriated to Pinzón since the November campaign to eradicate black rats (Rattus rattus) from the 1830 ha island. During the last approximately 150 years, introduced rats had essentially reduced natural recruitment into the tortoise population to zero.
With logistical support from the Guadalupe River, the GNPD’s boat, the team of park rangers left Puerto Ayora at 3:00 AM, arriving at Pinzón around 6:00 AM. Following the preparation of the equipment and accommodating the young tortoises in daypacks, the park rangers began their climb to the central crater, each carrying 11 tortoises.
The volcanic terrain of often loose rocks did not impede the park rangers from arriving at the designated release site, located in the highlands and central crater of the island, where there is good tortoise habitat with sufficient vegetation for their survival.
The giant tortoises are one of the iconic species of Galapagos and form an important part of the insular ecosystems. The repatriation program of the GNPD, releasing tortoises reared in captivity at the park’s tortoise centers, has helped to ensure a steady increase in the tortoise populations. To date, the GNPD has repatriated a total of 783 tortoises to Pinzón Island.