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September 26, 2014
The Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) has been slowly rebuilding the tortoise populations of Galapagos for nearly 50 years.
A group of 79 Santiago giant tortoises (Chelonoidis darwini) were recently repatriated to their natural habitat on Santiago Island by Galapagos National Park rangers after meeting the minimum size requirement for release.
The tortoises are between 3 and 5 years of age and were hatched and reared at the Fausto Llerena Giant Tortoise Breeding Center in Santa Cruz. Strict quarantine measures were taken prior to their release, and all tortoises received veterinary checkups and a numbered chip with which to identify each tortoise in subsequent monitoring.
The young tortoises were transported by boat to La Bomba on Santiago Island, where rangers hiked them to the release location 4 hours away — an area about 700 meters (2,297 feet) above sea level with an appropriate habitat for tortoises and plenty of vegetation for food.
With this new group, a total of 1,033 tortoises have been repatriated from the Breeding Center to Santiago Island by the Galapagos National Park. The first repatriation was made on April 19, 1975.
Santiago Island is located in the center of the archipelago and is one of the biggest islands in Galapagos, with an area of 577 square kilometers (223 square miles). It also has some of the highest elevations in Galapagos, and — like other species of highland tortoises — the shell morphology of Santiago tortoises is dome-like. It is estimated that this species has a population of nearly 1,500 individuals.
Translated with permission from the Galapagos National Park Directorate. Please contact Galapagos Conservancy with inquiries.