According to the preliminary monitoring results from the Santa Fe Island Ecological Restoration Plan, 99.9% of the tortoises released on the island over the past four years have survived and are in good health. This project is part of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservancy.
Of the 549 individuals released on Santa Fe since 2015, only four have died to date, which is presumed to be due to natural predation by Galapagos hawks.
“These young tortoises fulfill their role as engineers of the ecosystem, as we can clearly see tortoise paths in approximately 30% of the surface of the island. It has also been proven that they are actively contributing to seed dispersal, especially of Opuntia cactus,” said Jorge Carrión, director of the Galapagos National Park.
Washington Tapia, Director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, noted that “this will help improve the population dynamics of cacti whose population is currently made up mainly of adults and subadults; a situation that represents a risk for the future of that species.”
As part of this effort, GTRI team members installed a network of 60 cameras was on Santa Fe to record images of tortoise activity, as well as changes in the vegetation of the 20 permanent plots established to measure their long-term effects.
Watch a video on the release of tortoises on Santa Fe Island.