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December 11, 2014
Within days of the first-ever review of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Centers in November 2014, Galapagos National Park rangers on San Cristóbal and Isabela Islands began implementing some of the more immediate recommendations — prior to ever receiving the final report.
At the Tortoise Center on San Cristóbal, rangers extended one of the pre-adaptation corrals (for three- and four-year-old tortoises), more than doubling its size. This expansion was needed to provide greater diversity of habitat, especially more access to direct sun. The team also re-marked all of the tortoises to ensure that no numbers would be lost during the first years of life.
For the hatchling corrals, they cut most of the overhanging tree branches and took down a wooden structure above the corrals that created too much shade. These young animals were not getting enough sun; now they will get plenty. Since a tortoise’s shell is made up of bone and keratin, a high-calcium diet is important to maintain the shell’s rigidity. The sun’s UV rays are essential for calcium metabolism, and allow tortoises to warm themselves so that they can properly digest their food.
At the Isabela Tortoise Center, a major problem in the large corrals for the various populations of adult tortoises resulted from dense vegetation preventing them from using large sections of their corrals and creating too much shade. Within a week of the review, the Isabela office had a team of Park rangers clearing out some of the thickest areas and creating more areas of sunshine for the tortoises.
The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI) team will soon be handing in a comprehensive report with many recommendations to be carried out over the next several months — including the creation of a new operational manual and a short course for all Park rangers working with the tortoises. The evidence of the rangers’ enthusiasm in immediately responding to the review demonstrates that much can be accomplished for the giant tortoises of Galapagos as part of a collaborative effort.
Read about the Park rangers working with tortoises on Isabela, San Cristóbal, and Floreana.
Read about the Park rangers working with tortoises on Santa Cruz.