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February 28, 2019
A group of 155 juvenile Española tortoises (Chelonoidis hoodensis) were recently released on Santa Fe Island as part of ongoing efforts to restore its ecosystem. The original Santa Fe tortoise species went extinct more than 150 years ago, so the island is being repopulated with a tortoise species similar to the original Santa Fe tortoise.
Jorge Carrión, director of the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), commented: “All the released tortoises have an intra-dermal identification microchip to facilitate their monitoring in the future. The tortoise is the largest herbivore of the Archipelago, and its release on Santa Fe aims to fulfill its role as ‘ecosystem engineer’ and contributes to the dispersal of species such as Opuntia cactus.”
Prior to their transfer from the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center on Santa Cruz to Santa Fe, rangers ensured the tortoises complied with rigorous quarantine processes. Upon the landing in the bay on Santa Fe, 11 park rangers and four scientists unloaded the tortoises from the boat and carried them to the release area on the island.
The recovery plan for Santa Fe includes the annual release of juvenile tortoises to Santa Fe until 2026. GC’s Wacho Tapia, Director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, explained, “The first tortoises released in 2015 are currently between 10 and 12 years old so they are expected to start reproducing in the next five to seven years.” The new inhabitants of Santa Fe add to the 394 that have been released in the past four years since this program began.
This project is part of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, a collaborative effort of the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and Galapagos Conservancy.