The Galapagos giant tortoise is one of the most iconic species on the Archipelago. The Islands are actually named after these famous animals – Galapago is an old Spanish word for tortoise. They are a highlight for the majority of visitors to Galapagos and it is easy to understand why given their size, average lifespan of a century and their wise looks.
Sadly, giant tortoises have a history of being exploited by humans, as they provided a relatively easy source of fresh meat for whalers and pirates. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals were lost as a result, and on some islands tortosies were driven to extinction.
Today, tortoises are recovering on most Galapagos islands but remain in danger. They face a number of different threats ranging from habitat degradation to climate change. One of the fastest increasing problems on the Islands is conflict with humans. With a growing human population in Galapagos, there is more chance that negative interactions will arise between humans and tortoises, especially on the inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela. Migration routes are being impacted by roads, buildings and some landowners who do not want tortoises moving across their lands.
Will you help us to protect the Galapagos giant tortoise from these threats?
Invasive and introduced species are also a major threat to Galapagos giant tortoises. Non-native species, such as fire ants, rats and pigs, are responsible for the destruction of nests, and the predation of eggs and hatchling tortoises. Hatchlings must then survive predation by rats, cats and dogs, and the latter can also be a threat to adult tortoises. There is also the possibility that the health of tortoises might be affected by non-native species which could have worrying implications, though this is still being investigated.
The Giant Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme, which we have supported since 2011, is working with partners to ensure that giant tortoises are protected from these threats. From eggs to adults, we are still learning how best to conserve these giants. We are continuing to monitor and protect nesting sites.
Using new technology, we are able to track tortoise hatchlings more effectively in order to truly understand the threats that they face. We are also working with land owners to understand how we can ensure that they can live alongside tortoises conflict-free.
We need your help to ensure that this work can continue. You can help support this work today, but you’ll be doing much more than that. The work you help make possible will allow us to ensure that these ancient giants continue to roam Galapagos for generations to come.
A gift of £50 will help us to cover vital activities such as:
- Protecting a giant tortoise nest from invasive species during the upcoming breeding season
- Support a day of fieldwork to monitor tortoise hatchlings in the Santa Cruz highlands
- Undertake vital health checks on a nesting female
Please make a donation now, and together we can ensure a future for Galapagos giant tortoises.